Pep Guardiola backs USMNT’s Zack Steffen after Man City’s FA Cup exit

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Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal between rivals Manchester City and Liverpool was largely one to forget for the Premier League leaders, who went down 3-0 en route to a 3-2 exit at the hands of Jurgen Klopp’s Reds.

And one of the goats — lowercase ‘g’ — for the losing team will be American goalkeeper Zack Steffen, who made a huge error for the second Liverpool goal, won’t like how he looked on the third, and will know he could’ve handed the Reds a fourth late, just after City pulled to within 3-2.

But Guardiola loves a ball-playing goalkeeper and thinks Steffen’s a pretty good one. He’s not regretting using the USMNT backstop instead of Ederson, and Guardiola appears to be backing Steffen a little bit, too.

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“It was an accident,” Guardiola said. “One of [his] strong points is try to play [the ball] and as a keeper he has this quality. It was an accident and he will learn for the future. When the ball is there it can always happen. I have spoken with the team not him personally but he is strong.”

Now whether that means Guardiola still has belief in Steffen as his honest-to-goodness No. 2 remains to be seen, because this is two-straight FA Cup seasons that will end shy of a final because of Steffen errors.

But how much of that has to do with Steffen — or Claudio Bravo, or whoever Pep’s No. 2 has been over the years — having to step onto a big stage once a month and do so while a certain segment of the fan base is saying, “Yeah, but it’s a semifinal and Liverpool, don’t we go for Ederson now?”

It’s going to be an odd summer for Steffen, who needs to play leading up to the World Cup and will be competing with a Matt Turner who’s moving to Arsenal, an Ethan Horvath who could be a Premier League starter for Nottingham Forest, and whoever comes leaping out of the field this summer or Fall.