Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner was recently called up to the US men’s national team in preparation for the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Given his performances with New England this season — helping the team to its best start in years — it’s a real possibility that Turner could be featured in a starting role.
The 27-year-old has made one appearance for the national team before, coming in a friendly against Trinidad and Tobago earlier in 2021. It went about as well as it could have, with Turner saving a penalty kick and the US rolling to a 7-0 win.
Of course, playing in a friendly isn’t the same as a tournament game.
“Obviously it’s a little bit different,” Turner admitted in a pre-tournament press conference. “The games pack a little more punch.”
But while he’s aware of the heightened circumstances, Turner also noted that he’s used to it. It’s the nature of his position.
“You have to be perfect, but this is what goalkeepers always strive to be,” Turner explained. “You sort of live on the fence; either you’re a hero or you could be the villain. So every single time we’re stepping out onto the field we’re chasing perfection, we’re chasing that consistency. My approach doesn’t really change day-to-day, match-to-match.”
It’s a mentality that’s helped him deal with a recent rise in profile. After going undrafted at the start of his MLS career, and fighting for a starting job in New England, he’s become one of the league’s newest stars.
Turner has anchored a Revolution team that currently sits atop the Eastern Conference. His acrobatic saves in a 3-2 win over NYCFC in June won him MLS Player of the Week (a first for a New England player since 2017). Both his personal success and that of the team have led to an increased level of media attention, and now he’s in contention for the starting role with the national team.
“I guess it’s new, but it doesn’t feel any different,” Turner said when asked about the praise he’s received.
Despite the recognition, Turner said he stays grounded thanks to the players and coaches at the club and national team level that holds him accountable.
“Not much really changes, the attention’s flattering, but my focus is on putting my best foot forward and having good performances and racking up consistency.”
Looking towards the Gold Cup, which gets underway for the US on Sunday against Haiti (8:30 p.m. ET), Turner will be a part of a relatively younger and less experienced team. Unlike the dramatic win over Mexico in the CONCACAF Nations League Final a month ago, the current roster includes only a few European-based players.
In the place of national team regulars like Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie — both of whom featured in the UEFA Champions League this past season — is a largely MLS-based group.
Still, Turner views the lack of international experience as a motivating factor for the current US team, citing hunger and intensity as the team’s chief asset.
“We have a lot of guys on this team that want to prove themselves,” he said . “They want to show that soccer here in MLS is great and we want to step out onto the field and get good results and play for a championship.”
With no friendlies scheduled before the start of the tournament, practices have been the only place to impress U.S. head coach Gregg Berhalter.
“Tackles are flying and guys are vying for spots in the team,” Turner said of the recent training sessions. “Everybody wants to make an impact. Everyone wants to be in that Starting XI, so it’s been real intense.”
After Haiti, the U.S. will face Martinque on July 15 before the final group stage game against Canada on July 18. It’s a series of tests that the U.S. won’t take lightly, as Turner — whose Revolution teammate Tajon Buchanan could feature for Canada — knows well.
“It’s no secret. It’s a little bit more of a challenging group than some of the other ones,” he admitted. “Haiti’s a team that took Mexico to extra time in the last Gold Cup. It’s going to be intense, but I think everybody here is up for the challenge, and like I said, one game at a time.”
And while it might not be the most experienced US team, Turner noted that the goals for the tournament remain “crystal clear.”
“I think there’s an expectation with this program [that] when we step out onto the field in the Gold Cup, we expect to make it to the final, reach the final and challenge for the trophy.”