USMNT starting goalkeeper Zack Steffen has had quite a first season at Manchester City in the Premier League.
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Premier League debut? Check. Champions League debut? Check. Making big saves in a Manchester derby win at Old Trafford to reach a major cup final? Check.
The Pennsylvania native, 25, is only just getting started too, as he trains with Ederson every day and his loan move to Fortuna Dusseldorf last season saw him impress further at club level.
We will be releasing different segments of ProSoccerTalk’s exclusive interview with Manchester City and USMNT goalkeeper Zack Steffen in the days ahead, as he discusses his anti-racism project, Voyce Now, life in Manchester, what he gets up to off the pitch and much more.
And after captaining the USMNT during the November international break, he is now focused on kicking on for his country who face Jamaica and Northern Ireland in friendly games in March.
Steffen spoke exclusively to ProSoccerTalk from Manchester, and here is what he said when asked about the expectations for the USMNT in 2021 as the Gold Cup, Nations League and World Cup qualifiers take center stage.
“We are very young, very motivated and very hungry but we are also very inexperienced when it comes to the international game, because we are so young,” Zack Steffen said. “I think it is really good that a lot of us are coming over to Europe to these good leagues and good teams and that we are going to get better and get stronger.
“I’m confident in our group and our talents but it is really about coming together and putting it all together. That is the hardest part and we don’t have a lot of time together, we’ve had some camps canceled and games canceled, but now it is about getting together and really buying in, each training and each game so we can really become a family as soon as possible.”
USMNT ready to take next step
What has changed with the USMNT over the last 18-24 months since Gregg Berhalter, Steffen’s former coach with the Columbus Crew, took charge?
“Gregg and his staff have done a good job of bringing in a good culture to the group,” Steffen said. “A winning mentality, a brotherhood and a place where we are really just a family where we are all bought in and on the same page. We’ve got to keep coming into camp and putting in the work and effort to grow as a team and as an individual, and then take the games one game at a time.
“Our goal is to obviously win all of them, but nothing is perfect and there will be a few hiccups and bumps along the road but we’ve got to stick together and learn from this mistakes and those experiences.”
Steffen told ProSoccerTalk that Tyler Adams, Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Tim Weah are some of his best friends on the USMNT and that core group will lead this new era as expectation levels continue to rise with Sergino Dest, Gio Reyna, Yunus Musah and others breaking through in Europe.
‘Soul searcher’ Berhalter is the right man for the job
Steffen also revealed a little more about Berhalter’s character, as he said he is very clear with his message on and off the training pitch and is working hard to make sure all of the different squads (European and U.S. based) understand exactly what he wants.
Number one: Berhalter ‘really cares’ about his young players, said Steffen.
“I really enjoy playing for him. He is really calm but at the same time he can be really intense and he will just stare into your eyes like he is going to take your soul,” Steffen smiled. “He’s good for us.”
There will be a lot of eyes staring intently at the USMNT this month, and in the years ahead, as Steffen and his young teammates continue to usher in a new era for the USA.