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Man City sign USMNT goalkeeper Zack Steffen

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One of the worst kept secrets in American soccer is now official: Zack Steffen has signed for Manchester City.

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The Columbus Crew SC and U.S. men’s national team goalkeeper will officially join the reigning Premier League champions on July 9, 2019 at the start of the secondary transfer window in Major League Soccer.

In a statement released by Columbus, they say the transfer fee is “the largest in club history and most ever received by an MLS club for a goalkeeper in the League’s 23-year history.”

It is believed Steffen will cost City around $10 million.

Steffen, 23, has become a regular for the USMNT over the past 12 months and has made six appearances for the Stars and Stripes which included a superb display against 2018 World Cup winners France in a 1-1 friendly draw in Lyon back in June

Speaking about his upcoming move to the Premier League, Steffen is delighted to get the opportunity and he hopes to continue progressing with Columbus over the next seven months.

“Any success that I have had as a goalkeeper in MLS with Crew SC is a testament to those around me who have pushed me – teammates, coaches, staff, family, friends and supporters,” Steffen said. “Today’s announcement regarding next summer is a special moment for me and I look forward to finishing my time with this Club on a strong note. I am eager to continue to put in the work to improve and be the best teammate I can.”

Steffen’s development has been clear for all to see over the past 18 months, as he has flourished in Columbus under Gregg Berhalter. Brought in from German side SC Freiburg in 2016, the imposing goalkeeper has jumped to the top of the pack and ahead of Brad Guzan and Ethan Horvath as the USMNT’s top goalkeeper. Steffen was named the 2018 MLS Goalkeeper of the year and was also an MLS All-Star in 2018.

It is likely the former University of Maryland goalkeeper will find minutes hard to come by at City for the foreseeable as current first-choice goalkeeper Ederson is just 25 years old, but Steffen’s move to the PL means he will be training with one of the top clubs in the world and that can only be a good thing for the USMNT moving forward.

More than likely Steffen will spend time out on loan at either Girona or others clubs with a close connection to the City Football Group (CFG) in the next few years, and this signing goes along with City’s mantra of trying to sign up the best young talent across the globe then either sell them on or loan them out for a sizeable fee.

Following in the footsteps of Brad Friedel, Kasey Keller, Tim Howard and Brad Guzan before him, Steffen is the latest American to get his shot in the Premier League.

When preseason rolls around in 2019 we will be seeing Steffen in a Man City jersey.

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.

[ MORE: Top PL storylines – Wk 16 ]

“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.”

Report: Steffen passes Man City medical; Loan likely

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American goalkeeper Zack Steffen is indeed off to Manchester City, though not for long.

Goal.com reports that the 23-year-old USMNT backstop has passed his medical and signed a contract ahead of January move from Columbus which will earn the Crew between $7.5 and 10 million when all is said and done.

[ MORE: Risk worth it for Steffen ]

The report says Steffen is not likely to be approved for a UK work permit. Should that happen, Girona in La Liga and Nice in Ligue 1 are named as loan options. Paul Tenorio of The Athletic says a loan back to Columbus is also possible.

Canada-born Morocco goalkeeper Yassine Bounou, 27, is the entrenched starter at Girona, though (complete speculation here) perhaps this could be a loan swap to get Man City an upgrade at back-up to Ederson (again, assuming Steffen is denied a UK work permit). The same could be true for Walter Benitez at Nice, who is managed by long-time NYCFC boss Patrick Vieira.

Steffen is expected to rival Club Brugge goalkeeper Ethan Horvath for the USMNT’s No. 1 shirt, with many perceiving the Crew man to have a leg up due to his relationship with longtime Columbus and new USMNT boss Gregg Berhalter.

Four burning questions regarding Berhalter’s plans for USMNT

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New USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter has a lot to consider regarding the player pool of his squad, and we’ve got a lot to consider about him.

[ MORE: Adams off to RB Leipzig ]

There’s little doubt that Berhalter is a heck of a coach, and there’s reason to believe he’ll thrive with the team.

But what does he really think about the quality of the stars in MLS, and overseas? And does his work with the Crew tip his hand at all in terms of how he’ll line up the Yanks.


Personnel will dictate what he sticks with, but what formation gets first dibs?

Berhalter operated in a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3 for most of this season, switching to the latter for the last 10 starting lineups of the regular season and three MLS Cup Playoff games.

Part of that 4-3-3 was very much akin to a 4-2-3-1, with Federico Higuain operating atop a midfield pyramid.

It’s worth noting that no teams beat Berhalter’s Crew more often than Toronto FC and the New York Red Bulls (7). It’s not a stretch to say he’ll have respected impressions of Tyler Adams, Marky Delgado, Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Aaron Long, and their peers (Altidore, for example, has five goals and an assist in seven games against Berhalter).

Who has caught his eye abroad, aside from Pulisic, McKennie, etc? And is this an MLS litmus test?

When you consider the men from outside MLS set to star for the USMNT in future seasons, there’s little doubt about the new guard of Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, and John Brooks, but who else might Berhalter have admired in studying those who followed his career path and spent most of the careers abroad?

Experienced hands who could be in line for another or deeper run with the USMNT are Alfredo Morales, Eric Lichaj, Geoff Cameron, Lynden Gooch, and Emerson Hyndman.

A deeper look, though, raises the question of how many MLS players will get continued, deep assessments given how many USMNT players or prospects are in top European environments. For example, you could call up a 23-man roster based entirely on the continent and feel confident you’ve made few errors (assuming a transfer Steffen happens).

This isn’t a shot at MLS, who developed many of these players (I’ll denote that with a *). It’s rationality, and a compliment.

Goalkeepers (3): Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Zack Steffen* (Columbus->Man City – reportedly), Jonathan Klinsmann (Hertha Berlin)

Defenders (8) : John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Matt Miazga* (Nantes), DeAndre Yedlin* (Newcastle United), Eric Lichaj (Hull City), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Swansea City), Shaq Moore (Reus), Antonee Robinson (Wigan Athletic), Erik Palmer-Brown* (NAC Breda),

Midfielders (8): Geoff Cameron* (QPR), Danny Williams (Huddersfield Town), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Weston McKennie* (Schalke), Tyler Adams* (RB Leipzig), Kenny Saief (Anderlecht), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Monchengladbach), Romain Gall* (Malmo)

Forwards (4): Bobby Wood (Hannover 96), Tim Weah (PSG), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen), Haji Wright (Schalke)

SCOTLAND — Emerson Hyndman of Hibernian (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

How big of a day is this for Wil Trapp?

The Columbus Crew defensive midfielder has already captained the USMNT eight times under Dave Sarachan. That’s 8-of-11 caps for a 25-year-old, and it’s been whispered that his continued inclusion may’ve been a sign Berhalter was coming for some time.

But is that simply connecting too many dots? Yes, Trapp was a mainstay for Berhalter with the Crew, but he’s often struggled to star when given the chance in a U.S. shirt at a time when few other players had the opportunity.

Trapp was the 12th-rated American defensive midfielder with more than 10 appearances in MLS this season, according to WhoScored. Taking away anyone not rated strictly as a holding or DCM, Trapp is behind six players: Russell Canouse, Sean Davis, Cristian Roldan, Tyler Adams, Jeff Larentowicz, and Benny Feilhaber. The first four are the same age or younger than Trapp, and 18-year-old Chris Durkin wasn’t far behind the Crew man.

Another thing to keep in mind, which is completely coincidental and speculation, is that Transfermarkt compares two American players to Artur, Berhalter’s preferred midfield mate for Trapp with the Crew: 23-year-old Kellyn Acosta of the Colorado Rapids and 21-year-old Keaton Parks of Benfica.

Will any other Crew players get a chance to shine?

Gyasi Zardes, 27, scored 20 goals while leading the Crew in minutes this season, but Berhalter has had success with any number of strikers in his system. Ola Kamara and Kei Kamara each had prolific seasons for Columbus.

Goalkeeper Zack Steffen, 23, is already entrenched in the USMNT plans, whether he can outplay Ethan Horvath or not.

Aside from Trapp and the two above, there are not many other Americans under 30 who’ve seen many minutes under Berhalter since Ethan Finlay left town in 2017.

It’s also probably bad news for Kekuta Manneh, who washed out of Columbus and has yet to score for St. Gallen in Switzerland.

Steffen to Man City would be worth the risk for USMNT GK

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Zack Steffen is 23 years old, the winner of the 2018 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Award, and ready to take a second shot at success in a top European league.

The Columbus Crew and USMNT backstop seems likely to join Manchester City on Jan. 1, a destination which has caused significant (and misunderstood) consternation amongst American fans.

[ RECAP: Lyon 2-2 Man City ]

Assuming City has a good feel it can get a special exemption work permit for Steffen, the question uttered most often seems to be, “Why would the presumed No. 1 USMNT goalkeeper go somewhere to be a No. 2?”

The other criticism of the move seems to be, “He’s just going to go on loan to” one of City’s sister clubs like NAC Breda in the Eredivisie.

The answer to the first question is easy. The second? Maybe just as much so.

First off, Manchester City is in a goalkeeping quandary. It has already had to recall Arijanet Muric from a loan stint after losing Claudio Bravo to injury on the heels of selling Angus Gunn to Southampton in August.

Should City defeat Leicester in December’s League Cup quarterfinals, the club will be in four competitions once Steffen arrives and get up to speed. Even if Guardiola is cautious, it’s likely that Steffen will play in League Cup and FA Cup matches during a time he would otherwise be on his proverbial, or actual, couch.

He’ll also be training every day with one of the best teams in the world, something certain to improve his footwork in distribution as he looks to fend off challenges to his No. 1 national team spot from Club Brugge’s Ethan Horvath and others.

It’s been well-noted that Tim Howard was 23 when he began his 13-year European journey with Manchester United and Everton, although it’s much different as Alex Ferguson was ready to take the No. 1 shirt from Fabian Barthez and give it to Howard (although he pulled it back one year later).

Steffen left the University of Maryland to join Freiburg in the Bundesliga, but couldn’t get playing time. Now he goes back a bit wiser and with a lot more experience.

It’s a tough road for goalkeepers unless they are entrenched somewhere. It’s unlikely that Steffen is going unseat Ederson, but you can be sure City is only going to loan him to a place where he’ll have a legit chance at winning the No. 1.

And if he can’t win the No. 1 job there? Well, guess what USMNT fans? You’ve got much bigger problems if no one can unseat him.

Finally, what if he stays the backup at City, and isn’t playing week-in and week-out? Bravo is 35, and could be gone. Muric is no guarantee to improve enough to unseat him, and Bravo played 19 matches as a healthy backup to Ederson last season.

Finally, he’s going to get a massive raise. That’s not a small thing, and certainly nothing anyone should begrudge him.