Matt Turner’s Arsenal moves the culmination of a ‘dream’ career

On an emotional and surreal day last month, as Matt Turner was living an unlikely dream, another was taking shape.

And it was a dream. There is even some circumstantial photographic evidence. Turner recently posted the photo, which shows a teenage goalkeeper with almost no professional hopes dozing in a red Arsenal shirt. He had started to follow traditional Premier League power when his older sisters played for a youth team named in his honour. The Gunners have become his team of choice on FIFA. He studied their history.

“So you’re dreaming,” the United and New England Revolution goalkeeper said on Thursday in his first public comments since his superb summer move to Arsenal was confirmed. “You want things to happen for you in your life, and you don’t really see a clear path for how they’re going to turn out. But you just trust the work and trust your dream every day, and keep going. work hard, be aware of yourself, know what you need to work on and listen to your coaches around you.

Turner, now 27, followed that famously uncharted path from Fairfield University to the third-tier Richmond Kickers, the Revolution, the national team, and then a magical 2021. Last year, he won the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award, the Supporters’ Shield. and the Concacaf Gold Cup (with five clean sheets in six games), among other accolades. Turner faced Manchester City’s Zack Steffen for the starting role with the United and, over the winter, attracted interest from Arsenal. At the end of January, Turner helped the Americans knock out El Salvador in a World Cup qualifier – his sixth in eight starts in the Concacaf Octagon – a move to London of estimated value at $10.2 million was sealed.

Poignantly, Turner signed a fan’s Arsenal shirt as he headed triumphantly to the Columbus locker room.

“I had heard of rumblings of interest over the past few months, but it always seemed like a long shot. At the turn of the year, they decided to make an offer and contact the Revs,” Turner explained. “Then the day we were playing in El Salvador, it finally passed. It was moving. It was top to bottom. Sometimes it was deader than ever, sometimes it was more alive than ever, but this is the first time I’ve seen something like this.

“So to get it all over and then go out and put on a good performance and get three points for the national team, it was kind of a euphoric day for me in my life and in my career.”

Somehow, Turner never let his dreams become a distraction. Maybe at first it was because they seemed so wacky. They were fantasies. He was thrilled just to sign a contract, just to have a game. But even when his progress and the potential reward became tangible, the focus and humility did not waver. There were proofs and precedents. He knew that the path that had taken him this far was the path that would take him further.

“I hope the public knows about this rise of Matt Turner because it’s an incredible story,” USA coach Gregg Berhalter said after El Salvador’s victory. “It’s an amazing, amazing story. And it’s all down to him, his work ethic and his belief in himself, his attitude of never giving up. It’s a great story and Matt is a great guy, an excellent teammate and we are lucky to have him.

“Corn [against El Salvador] was an example where he did everything he had to do,” added the manager. “He was calm in all situations. He hasn’t been tested much, but he was there when we needed him and he looked like a player going to Arsenal for sure.

USMNT goalkeeper Matt Turner makes a save against El Salvador

Berhalter’s support played an important role in Turner’s emergence. But the American coach didn’t let sentiment get in the way of the standards. Concerns over Turner’s comfort in possession and as part of the United’s build-up led Steffen, who is a substitute at City, to start three qualifiers in October and November. Turner then returned to the No.1 role for recent games against El Salvador, Canada and Honduras while Steffen dealt with a back problem.

While Berhalter will have to choose between the two for the culmination of qualifying in March, the race for the top job will evolve into the World Cup (assuming qualification). Turner will no longer have guaranteed form, pace and games on his side of the ledger. Like Steffen, he will struggle for minutes at one of the biggest clubs in the game. Arsenal starter Aaron Ramsdale is 23. He earned his first senior England cap in a November World Cup qualifier and is on Arsenal’s books until the summer of 2025.

Turner is well aware of what awaits him. He said he was “not worried” about jeopardizing his international status. He’s fought these battles before, on relative terms. And he’s confident the challenge will make him a better player, putting him in a position to compete for more meaningful minutes on multiple fronts. Both Turner and Berhalter said Arsenal’s style of play under Mikel Arteta should help Turner improve his passing and distribution. The rest will sort itself out. You do not refuse such a chance.

“It’s always easier when they’re aligned – the player’s role and responsibility at his club – when it’s aligned with his role in the national team. It’s always helpful. You don’t always understand that,” Berhalter said on the US Soccer Podcast. “With Matt in particular, he’s done a great job of improving in that area, and we’re excited to see how he continues to develop.”

Turner said: “I know Gregg was a huge supporter of this decision.

He added: “When I was first trying to become a professional football player, most teams said ‘No’. I walked in and I was a [No.] 3. I was a [No.] 2. When I had my first chance with the national team, it was only as a number 3. Nobody ever really took me seriously. So I’m not going there just to cash a check and leave at sunset. I will push myself.

Matt Turner makes a save for the New England Revolution

Turner will join Arsenal during his off-season. The transfer window opens in July. Until then, there’s the not-so-small matter of confirming World Cup qualification, not to mention a swansong with the Revolution that will be anchored by its efforts to become the first MLS club to solve the puzzle. maddening head of the Concacaf Champions League. New England got a head start when Caribbean champion Cavaly of Haiti withdrew from the tournament this week. The Revs will face UNAM Pumas or Saprissa in the quarter-finals and open the MLS season on February 26 at the Portland Timbers.

He will be 28 when he goes abroad. It’s a challenge that once seemed impossible, but is also somehow doomed, and one that carries obvious and inherent risk. Turner’s career is already a storybook hit. He could stay in MLS, play regularly and make a living with a contending club. But that would somehow sell this “incredible story”. He wants to know how this fairy tale ends. And what better place to do it than at the famed club he followed as a lowly teenager who was on his way to a spot on the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference’s all-team second team?

“These windows are rare, so any time you have the opportunity to take that leap and step in the door and see what happens, you kind of have to take that chance, especially when it comes to of a club like Arsenal,” said Turner.

“I obviously played every game last year for the Revolution and I wasn’t the unconditional No. 1 for the national team. I’m still moved by Zack for some World Cup qualifying games. C So it’s a way for me to show my ambition and show that I want to work on things that maybe I’m not as good at as him and then challenge myself at the highest level possible. been my goal as a footballer. … It’s a dream move, a dream come true. And no hesitation. Seriously, no hesitation.

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