Matt Turner’s rapid rise from university in Qatar |  Feature |  New

Matt Turner’s rapid rise from university in Qatar | Feature | New

When the United States take to the field tonight against Wales, it will be their first World Cup game in more than eight years. A lot has changed during this time, especially for Matt Turner.

In 2014, when the United States were eliminated in Brazil by Belgium, Tim Howard was the star of the show as he made a competition record 15 saves in one game. Stare in awe at a student at the University of Fairfield, with a fanciful dream of patrolling the top positions in international football.

Now the student is the master. Matt looks set to follow in Howard’s footsteps and step out at Al Rayyan Stadium to face Gareth Bale and co, having started 19 of his country’s previous 27 games, including winning the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup. As a rule, the down-to-earth keeper takes nothing for granted.

“I’m playing to the best of my abilities and letting my work for the past 18 months speak for itself,” he said. “I’ve played 20 games for the national team over the past few years and I think I’m in a good position to play in the World Cup. In the end, if Gregg [Berhalter] decides for ethan [Horvath] or Sean [Johnson]and believes this is the best way to get results, I support the decisions he makes.

“I always want to challenge myself at the highest possible level”

“I support him as a manager and I will play to the best of my abilities to try and win. Obviously I want to play, and I feel like I’ve done enough to prove I can play at this level, but you don’t. can’t control much, and I feel like I did what I could.

Matt only won his first cap for his country in January 2021, but his rapid rise to become his country’s number one is in line with his career. His underdog story started at the age of 14 when he started playing football and turned into a goalkeeper when a teammate got injured. He later nearly gave up gambling to pursue a career in business before a lawsuit at New England Revolution in 2016 changed his life.

This belief in his abilities ultimately led him to Gold Cup triumph, when he also won the Golden Glove award. Further recognition came when he was crowned MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, but all of that wasn’t enough to secure his country’s goalkeeper jersey, leading him to take the next step. of his career, ending up in North London.

“I was benched for one game in World Cup qualifying, and the message was that playing week after week in MLS was not enough,” he revealed. “So I’m going after everything more. I train at a very high level, I’m challenging and I play with a very good coach who believes in me, and it’s really nice.

“There are no guarantees in this game. It all depends on how you train and how well you earn the trust of your manager and those around you. I haven’t received specific details on my role [at Arsenal] – just that if you show up and work hard, then anything can happen.

“It was a risk to go from being a shoo-in starter to a place where I wasn’t guaranteed to be a regular starter, but it felt like a necessary risk that I had to take. I still want to challenge at the highest level possible.

The risk appears to have paid off, with Matt being named to a young USA team with an average age of 24 – Qatar’s second youngest behind Ghana. “I will be like a grandfather, at 28!” he laughs, but it’s clear that Berhalter’s eyes are on 2026 when the United States will be one of the host nations.

“In the World Cup, everything is possible”

What they may lack in experience they make up for in confidence. Despite being placed in a tough group alongside Wales, England and Iran, Matt suggests hopes are high that the United States can surprise and sink into the competition.

“We have confidence in ourselves,” he added. “I think our group is the highest ranked group by FIFA on average, so it’s tough, and every game is tough. Obviously we want to talk about England v USA, but before that we We have one match each, and in the World Cup everything is possible. If you look too far into the future, you are going to be in trouble.

Although he doesn’t want to look beyond the opener against the Welsh, Matt admits that since he first walked through the door at London Colney it’s been hard not to focus on the encounter with the Three Lions, with three familiar faces providing plenty of friendly trash-talk.

Bukayo Saka, Ben White and his rival for our shirt Aaron Ramsdale have all put it together, with the foursome set to face off when England meet the United States on Friday.

Looking forward to the game, he said: “We had a few jokes with the English so I’m really looking forward to it. Playing at a World Cup is such a special thing, and it’s the pinnacle of your career, so to share that with a country I’m new to and getting used to would be really special.

“Most of my jokes come with Aaron. It’s just regular banter like you would have with anyone, you talk about things like the Revolutionary War – that’s more me joking about it! They’re laughing and joking that they’re going to crush us, so it’s okay!

“I’m very excited, it’s a dream come true for me”

If the results are good and USA reach the round of 16 and maybe further, these next few weeks will be some of the highlights of Matt’s career. But for now, he is delighted to have gotten the call from Qatar as his remarkable rise in the game continues.

“I’m very excited, it’s a dream come true for me,” he smiles. “I didn’t get into football until a bit later, so the first World Cup I watched was in 2010 in South Africa. I was already 16 but that’s the event athlete who made me fall in love with the beautiful game.

“I remember when Landon Donovan scored in stoppage time to beat Algeria and get USA through to the group stage; I don’t think I’ve ever felt the same emotion watching a match. This World Cup was amazing, but that moment is what made me really care about football.

After being inspired by the World Cup, Matt now hopes he can be the inspiration for Team USA to make a real impression on the biggest stage of them all.

Copyright 2022 Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to proper credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.

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