USMNT 'keeper Turner knew he needed Arsenal exit to prolong EPL dream
Matt Turner realized last spring it was time to move on from Arsenal, that he wasn't going to displace Aaron Ramsdale as the starting goalkeeper and his career would stagnate if he stayed with the Gunners.
Now 29, Turner joined Arsenal for the 2022-23 season from Major League Soccer's New England Revolution but played in just five Europa League and two FA Cup matches — none after Jan. 27.
"Towards the end of the season," he said Monday, "I felt like there's games that I could have been playing, that I wasn't even getting really a sniff of them. I was training really well, doing I felt like everything in my power to get myself minutes on the team and that just wasn't happening for me."
Turner transferred to Nottingham Forest on Aug. 9 and made his Premier League debut three days later in a 2-1 defeat at Arsenal. He's become Forest's No. 1 keeper and already played in four Premier League matches, winning Saturday at Chelsea.
"I knew that if I waited another year, it probably would have been more challenging for me to make a lateral move within the Premier League," Turner said Monday after training with the U.S. team in St. Louis. "So I knew that time was of the essence at that point. If I went another season without playing, I would have probably had to take a step back. And once you're out of it, it's hard to get back into it, especially when you're not English."
Turner was a soccer late-bloomer. He played high school baseball, watched the 2010 World Cup and became a goalkeeper as an 11th grader at Saint Joseph Regional High School in Montvale, New Jersey. He went to Fairfield, was overlooked in the Major League Soccer draft and signed with the Revolution in March 2016.
Ramsale, 25, took over as Arsenal's starter from Bernd Leno in 2021-22.
"Credit to Aaron, really, because he brought it every single day," Turner said. "When he had opportunities, when doors were cracked open, he always slammed it back shut. And I think he's a really talented goalkeeper."
Turner said the timing of the move to Forest was challenging. His son Easton was born in June 2022 and wife Ashley is due to give birth to a daughter next week.
"We first got together, before she was my wife and we were just dating, we talked about how this is my dream and are you good with the potential of having a little bit of uncertainty here and there?" he said. "I'm not sure she knew exactly what she was getting herself into, but we're here."
Despite his lack of club playing time last season, Turner was the U.S. starter at last year's World Cup, where the Americans were knocked out in the second round by the Netherlands.
"It's easy to get into the mode where you're comfortable not competing and just collecting your paycheck and showing up for work," he said. "The reason I fell in love with the game was that competition element of it all."
Only half the U.S. team arrived for training ahead exhibition games on Saturday against Uzbekistan and on Sept. 12 against Oman at St. Paul, Minnesota, the first games for the Americans in Gregg Berhalter's second term as coach.
The match will be the second for the U.S. team at CityPark, which opened in November. Before the Americans beat St. Kitts and Nevis last June in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the left-handed-hitting Turner took batting practice at Busch Stadium and homered.
Fulham defender Tim Ream, a St. Louis native, was looking forward to playing at CityPark for the first time.
"Soccer has always been a huge part of the fabric of the city," the 35-year-old Ream said. "The appetite for the game at that kind of grassroots level just propels players into good environments, into good situations. And I think there's a grit about this city, there's a fighting spirit in this city of all the players."
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