Berhalter sidesteps questions about USMNT goalkeeping situation
U.S. goalkeeping is its most uncertain in 30 years, and coach Gregg Berhalter sidestepped saying whether he would be comfortable starting Zack Steffen, Matt Turner or Ethan Horvath at the World Cup if they aren't playing regularly for their Premier League clubs.
Steffen, 29, played in just one league game at Manchester City this season behind Ederson. Turner, 27, joins Arsenal next month from New England as a backup to Aaron Ramsdale. Horvath, 26, had just six league appearances at Nottingham Forest before replacing an injured Brice Samba in the final minutes of Sunday's promotion playoff final.
“I'm not sure that the question needs to be answered right now," Berhalter said Tuesday, a day before the U.S. plays Morocco in an exhibition at Cincinnati. “I think it's time to just let all of this play out. And that's the beauty of time in this case. So what we can do is assess the situations."
Tony Meola, Kasey Keller, Brad Friedel and Tim Howard provided continuity and confidence as regular starters for most key matches of the 1989-2017 period.
Turner started eight of 14 World Cup qualifiers in this cycle and Berhalter said he will be in goal for the 15th-ranked U.S. against No. 24 Morocco.
Steffen is skipping the four World Cup prep matches in June, citing family reasons, and was replaced on the roster by 33-year-old Sean Johnson of Major League Soccer’s New York City.
Retired U.S. star Clint Dempsey said the goalkeepers should consider loans if they are not starting regularly.
“Whoever is going to win that spot is whoever is going to be playing more consistently," the American career scoring co-leader said two weeks ago. “And if you’re not playing consistently for your club, then you need to go on loan and get those minutes, because it’s all about being sharp when that time comes.”
Berhalter wouldn't say whether he would advocate a loan. The Premier League season opens Aug. 6 and the transfer window closes Sept. 1.
“That will be a conversation that we'll have to have in August,” he said.
Alex Lalas, a former U.S. defender now a Fox analyst, said Steffen may be too valuable as a backup at Man City, precluding a temporary move.
“Saying you want to go out on a loan isn't going to necessarily make it happen," he said.
Lalas maintained that all three not playing heading into the World Cup opener on Nov. 21 "sets you up for an excuse.“
“I would all rather that our goalkeepers are playing, but I'm not worried that within the three months or whatever before they leave in November that they suddenly become bad goalkeepers and can't save the ball," he said. “In the international game, form can be fallacy."
In other news:
— Bayern Munich midfielder Malik Tillman was approved for a change of association from Germany to the United States by FIFA on Tuesday, three days after his 20th birthday. “He's shown a lot of quality in training, very good understanding of the game, very good first touch and awareness around the penalty box." Forward Haji Wright and defender Joe Scally also could make debuts, though Berhalter said Scally won't start Wednesday.
— Weston McKennie is fit to play about 20 minutes as he regains fitness after breaking two bones in his left foot during Juventus' Champions League match at Spain’s Villarreal on Feb. 22. The midfielder's only action since then was in the season finale on May 21, when he entered in the 76th minute.
— Berhalter may test Brenden Aaronson in the middle of the midfield rather than the wide role he was used in during qualifying.
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