Manchester City vs. Liverpool: Zack Steffen howler furthers USMNT goalkeeping dilemma for Gregg Berhalter

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Wembley has become a stadium of horrors for Zack Steffen. A mere 20 minutes into the game, Manchester City went behind 2-0 to Liverpool in the FA Cup semifinal largely thanks to an incredibly howler from the backup keeper. Pep Guardiola went with his cup goalkeeper Steffen, and he may have enough reason not to in big games after his performance early on. While Ibrahima Kounate’s opener was an unstoppable header, Sadio Mane’s goal was very avoidable to say the least.

Unaware of his surroundings, Steffen went to play the ball out of the back before Mane closed down to pick the ball off of his feet for the second goal. He was almost frozen in net as things were just too easy for Mane.

Steffen is not a stranger to horrible mistakes at Wembley. Last time he was on the pitch there he gave up the go-ahead penalty to Leicester in the Community Shield. And before that there was last season’s semifinal at Wembley against Chelsea where Steffen also made a crucial error as City lost 1-0. Now this moment that he’d surely rather forget.

Should Steffen still be USMNT’s first choice

This adds to a growing list of errors for Steffen both for club and country and it makes you wonder if he needs regular playing time to calm down his yips. If things don’t improve, sooner rather than later, there will be serious questions of if he should be Gregg Berhalter’s number one keeper in the World Cup in Qatar.

Steffen’s position at the top of the goalkeeping depth chart was already under fire with Matt Turner putting pressure on him. But Turner, who currently starts for the New England Revolution is set to join Arsenal this summer. He could find himself in a similar predicament to Steffen. Steffen rarely gets game time, backing up Ederson and Aaron Ramsdale is similarly firmly entrenched as Arsenal’s top keeper.

It’s quite the predicament for the USMNT with their two top keepers sitting on the bench, rarely getting game time, with a World Cup on the horizon in November. There are other options of course. Ethan Horvath is starting and playing well in the Championship for Nottingham Forrest. In Major League Soccer there’s young phenom Gabriel Slonina who is starting for the Chicago Fire at only 17 years old. He’s already drawing lots of attention from Europe.

There are a lot of moving parts for Gregg Berhalter and there’s not a lot of time to get them all figured out. Steffen and Turner’s limited minutes make it hard for them to maintain form, but also hard for Berhalter to assess exactly what kind of form they are in. Of course, it’s also possible that Steffen or even Turner could find themselves loaned out by their parent club this summer in search of playing time ahead of November. If that happens, Berhalter will likely breath a sigh of relief as it will remove this significant developing headache.


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