The US men’s national team goalkeeper Matt Turner has only conceded one penalty in their two World Cup matches so far. England scored six goals against Iran, but could not manage even one against the US.
The US will play Iran on Tuesday in their final World Cup group stage match and it’s all or nothing for the Americans. After their 0-0 draw with England and Iran’s win over Wales, the USMNT have to get a win against Iran, or face elimination. Iran’s strikers will be a challenge for Turner, but that’s something he’s never shied away from.
Iran vs. USA: how to watch
Matt Turner’s late intro into soccer
Matt Turner, in fact, did not even start playing soccer until he was 14 years old and even then, he was only playing it in order to stay in shape for basketball and baseball.
But one day, Turner and his friends were watching the 2010 World Cup together, and Turner fell in love with the sport. It was US forward Landon Donovan’s last-minute goal against Algeria that really caught his attention.
“After those games, my friends and I would go down to the field in the middle of my town, Park Ridge, New Jersey, and we would just try to recreate thing that we saw happen on the field during the day, and just have a ton of fun with it,” said Turner, recalling the beginning of his love for soccer.
Turner’s first game as a goalkeeper was in his freshman year of high school when the starting goalie was injured, but it wasn’t until his junior year that he really started taking it seriously.
“I started watching YouTube videos on how to be a goalkeeper and drills to do because I never had any formal coaching,” said Turner. “I made the varsity team my junior year. An injury to a goalkeeper ahead of me that was a senior captain allowed me to play a bunch of games.”
He attended college at Fairfield University, but had a difficult start. He didn’t play at all for two years, and when he finally did, he played in a game in which he accidentally scored on himself. The goal went on ESPN’s Not Top 10 and almost discouraged Turner enough to walk away from soccer completely.
Fortunately, he had a huge support team behind him that convinced him to stay. Turner’s Premier Development League coach Jeff Mateo and goalkeeper coach Billy Gaudette both encouraged him to keep playing.
“They sort of put their arms around me that summer and said ‘hey look, if you want to do this, we think you’re good enough to play professional soccer,’” Turner recalled. “That was the first time anybody ever told me that. My junior year starts and I have this tremendous new confidence because somebody finally told me I was good enough, that I trusted. And I won the starting job that fall.”
That led to a bright future for Turner. That someone believed in him gave him the courage to keep playing and believe in himself. And now, he is the starting goalkeeper for Premier League team Arsenal and playing on the world’s biggest stage in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
“Looking at that TV in 2010, I have such vivid memories of sitting on the couch, watching the game, and just being enamored by it all,” said Turner. “And to 12 years later be able to turn around and say, ‘I watched that, and I thought about it, and then I went for it’, it’s just insane.”
“I was living a dream. I get to play this game, soccer, every single day. And I wouldn’t trade that for anything.”