Zack Steffen discusses shock omission from USA World Cup squad
Zack Steffen has discussed his shock omission from the USMNT World Cup squad in an interview with The Athletic.
On 8 November, as Middlesbrough were preparing to play away to Blackpool in the English Championship when Steffen saw a text on his phone. It was from USA head coach Gregg Berhalter.
In March, Steffen played in the key World Cup fixtures that sealed qualification for Qatar, having also started in games last November.
He was a certainty for the 26-man squad going to Qatar. In March, Arsenal’s Matt Turner looked to be the USA’s backup option.
Steffen then called Berhalter.
“It’s between him and I,” Steffen says of that phone call. “We had a 10, 15-minute conversation. I was shocked, I was mad. He said he wasn’t taking me on the roster.
“That’s just how it goes sometimes, that’s life, it has ups and downs and unexpected turns.”
Steffen is currently on loan at Middlesbrough from Manchester City.
‘Big blow’ for Steffen
“Obviously it was a big blow,” he adds. I definitely was heartbroken and it takes time to get over.
“Now that it’s been some time and I’ve had some reflection, it’s in the past. I move on. I’m just using that as motivation.
“Like I say, that’s how life goes, how football goes. There’s only 26 players who can go. It’s just how it is.”
Mental health issues
Steffen did not appear for the USMNT in their games in June and was later left out of September’s World Cup warm-up friendlies.
“That was through my choice,” he explains.
“I was… I decided to call out of camp because I was having mental health issues back in May and June. That’s why I missed that. I’d missed it to be home with my family.
“He’s the coach and he makes decisions. So, yeah, I was there in March and April … he made his decision.”
When asked about his mental health issues, he said: “That was really the first time with that, and with them. They were understanding, they didn’t want me to be … they wanted me to be the healthy Zack Steffen.”
November 2022 will hurt him for a while he admits.
Middlesbrough gave him time to go home to Philadelphia to be with his family while the club season stopped for the World Cup.
“It hurt. I try to be understanding and see both sides of everything, but it was tough, the last month, to deal with this.
“I was able to watch the games. It wasn’t easy. But I still wanted to support them, see them do the best they can, prove the world wrong – that we can play and we’re a force to be reckoned with.
“It was hard to do that, but we’re only in the World Cup every four years,” he explained.