USMNT, Columbus keeper Steffen stays ready amid transfer rumors

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Zack Steffen wasn’t going to tip his hand, but the 2018 Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year knows you’re reading all the reports of him transferring from the Columbus Crew to Manchester City and he’s just getting used to it, too.

“It’s definitely been a process I’m not really used to, but a flattering feeling,” Steffen told ProSoccerTalk on behalf of Allstate’s awarding of $20,000 in scholarships to college-bound players.

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“Whatever happens I have my family, friends and close people pushing me and will always be there. It’s great to get attention and the feeling of being wanted, but you’ve gotta keep a level head and keep working hard to be the best you can be each day.”

That’s something he’s learned the right way, from being a rising youth national team prospect to a star at the University of Maryland, and then a goalkeeper coming home to reclaim his star in MLS following a tough stint at Freiburg in Germany.

So, yeah, he feels ready for whatever is next.

“Germany definitely gave me a little teaser of what Europe is like and how the whole process goes and what soccer is like over there,” said Steffen, who is reported to have passed his Manchester City medical and signed a contract with the Premier League champions.

“I definitely use it to prepare for different situations when they are thrown at me and I’ll continue to do that.”

Steffen saves a Philippe Coutinho chance (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

For everything new that may be coming his way, Steffen is going to have plenty of the familiar when he’s called into USMNT camp in January. The new U.S. boss is his longtime Crew coach Gregg Berhalter, and Steffen could hardly be happier with U.S. Soccer’s decision.

“He’s the guy in charge,” Steffen said. “He knows Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, Plan D, Plan E. He’s ready for whatever comes his way. He’s demanding and the right man for the job.”

If anything, there may be more stability in Steffen’s professional life despite a probable move abroad. He knows his national team coach, and there’s neither a chance the USMNT is moving nor a likelihood that any European club owner will threaten to move his team 1200 miles.

“It’s impossible not to think about and not to see the Tweets and the comments on Instagram, and hear about it when you’re out just talking to locals,” Steffen said. “It’s been a crazy year and a half in Columbus but we were lucky enough to have Gregg and a great coaching staff that kept us focused on the big picture and that was football, soccer. The fans were great and we wanted to play for them and not just ourselves. We had extra motivation to bring him wins and bring home playoff games.”

Steffen kept 10 clean sheets in 29 appearances for Columbus this season, then helping the Crew beat DC United in penalties before falling to the Red Bulls over two legs.

The season allowed him to take home the Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Award over several other outstanding players — Steffen names Alex Bono and Bill Hamid as his top backstops in MLS — and help some aspiring pros pay for college via Allstate’s $20,000 in scholarships.

“That goes such a long a way,” Steffen said. “I wasn’t aware of this community award that I could give out, and it’s a very humbling feeling because I was once in their shoes.”