Ives Galarcep has a solid write-up on former University of Maryland keeper Zack Steffen, who is beginning his professional career with Bundesliga side Freiburg.
The 20-year-old is a top-notch prospect, the sort of player who could reasonably continue the almost inexplicable pathway of American star goalkeepers in Europe.
Whether he can even get to Brad Guzan status, let alone Tim Howard or Kasey Keller, won’t be known for a while, but the comparisons to Howard are already coming from solid places.
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One of those comparing the two is Tab Ramos, Howard’s post-practice training partner at MetroStars and Steffen’s coach with the US U-20s.
“I can remember Timmy when he first came into the league, he was young and unpolished, but I remember him being able to do special things even then, like diving from one side of the goal to the other in a flash,” Ramos said. “Zack does have that high level of athleticism and potential.”
Sixteen years ago, Howard was a 19-year-old raw talent who would eventually develop into one of the best goalkeepers in U.S. national team history. Steffen is humbled by any comparisons to Howard, but is fully aware of just how much further he has to go to even come close to being worthy of the comparisons.
“I have a long way to go, and a lot to work on, so I don’t put much thought into any kind of labels,” Steffen said. “I just think about what’s next, whether it’s Under-20 qualifying, or going to Germany and starting my career.:
Steffen’s future USMNT competition at goalkeeper ought to be an interesting story to follow. Of course there’s Cody Cropper at Southampton and Bill Hamid at DCU, but also 2015 SuperDraft surefire picks Andrew Wolverton of Penn State and Alex Bono of Syracuse.
And going to play in Jurgen Klinsmann’s home country, regardless of whether he’s going to be in charge by the time Steffen is ready for prime time, shows a bit of wisdom and maturity much older than 20.