Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
July 2, 2022

Zack Steffen should not start for the U.S. Men's National Soccer Team

By DANIEL MOON | April 28, 2022

zack-steffen-on-june-9-2019

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / CC BY-SA 2.0

Zack Steffen should not start for the World Cup.

Loris Karius and Zack Steffen. What do they have in common? 

Well, they are the culprits of two of the most memorable mistakes made by a goalie in recent memory.

As many fans would say, these mistakes are career-defining. Loris Karius, a goalie for Liverpool, single-handedly carried Real Madrid into their Champions League victory in 2018 from his two critical mistakes that led to two different goals. He never fully recovered to his true form and is now drifting from club to club performing well below his true potential.

The bottom line is that these mistakes are often difficult to shake off even for top-level goalies like Karius, and there is no guarantee that Steffen will handle his mistake better than Karius ever did. 

While Steffen’s mistake against Liverpool this past week wasn’t as outrageous or nearly as memorable as Karius’ mistake, it is a clear indicator of Steffen’s current form and his overall mentality as a goalie. Steffen’s presence in Manchester City has been minimal, to say the least, ever since he joined the club in 2019. He has only appeared (not started) 20 times for Man City. Of those 20 times, 15 of those came in extremely low-stake domestic cup matches. 

With dwindling club minutes along with his various minor injuries that kept him away from the field, it is likely that Steffen felt the need to “pop-out” and make an impression on Man City manager, Pep Guardiola, with his rare opportunity. In any case, there is truly no justification for his mistake. In a position where consistency is deemed a necessity, it is difficult to overlook Steffen’s recent club performance when considering the starting lineup for the upcoming World Cup. 

Needless to say, every game in the World Cup is unlike any Champions League match, let alone a domestic cup match. Millions of fans are watching you perform, and any silly mistakes like the one committed by Steffen will make you the laughing stock of the whole tournament and will, most importantly, hurt your team. 

Simply put, there is really no reason for the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team (USMNT) to take a gamble and continue starting Steffen, given his lackluster (sometimes disastrous) performances for his club.

And it’s not as if USMNT lacks goalkeeping talent — Matt Turner and Ethan Horvath have demonstrated their ability to perform under pressure and have consistently been accumulating club minutes as starting goalies. While their flashiness and potential may not compare to that of Steffen’s, they have the overall consistency and constant playing time that Steffen lacks considerably in recent memory. 

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