After being pictured in pre-season training, Zack Steffen is expected to become Manchester City’s second choice goalkeeper, following the departure of Claudio Bravo after four seasons at the club. But who is the American international? What can we expect to see from him? And, could he really challenge Ederson for the number one spot?
Steffen, who agreed to join Manchester City almost three years ago, in late 2018 cost a reported £7 million in what his previous club Columbus Crew SC described as a “historic transfer”, as he became the most expensive goalkeeper in MLS history.
The former MLS Goalkeeper of the year, who was described by City officials as “one of the outstanding talents in America” spent the 2019/20 season in the Bundesliga, being managed by former City player Uwe Rosler at Fortuna Dusseldorf where he made 18 appearances. Though, the 25-year-old’s loan spell was cut short after suffering a knee injury.
In a hope to try and understand more about the highly-rated American, who Stuart Brennan of the Manchester Evening News suggested will look to push Ederson for gloves next season, we spoke to state-side journalist Charles Boehm about Manchester City’s new number two.
Thanks for joining us Charles. One of Pep Guardiola’s requirements of his goalkeepers is to be able to be good with their feet. This is one of Ederson’s key attributes, so how good is Steffen at using his feet, playing out from the back and being a ‘sweeper keeper‘?
Playing out from the back is a foundational principle of Gregg Berhalter (Steffen’s coach at both Columbus Crew SC and the US men’s national team) so Steffen has lots of experience with it. He did have some growing pains with it early on, but made it a focus and has become pretty comfortable. I expect he’ll still have a learning curve working directly under Pep Guardiola, but he’s shown he has the capability to adopt such a style.
When Manchester City signed the USMNT international, they described him as “one of the outstanding talents in America”. He has since been away from the MLS, but as the countries number one, what has he been like for USMNT?
He was a pretty dependable US youth international over a long period of time. At the 2015 FIFA U20 World Cup, he saved a penalty vs Colombia in the round of 16, and carried a quarter-finalist team for key stretches. At senior level, has benefited from being Berhalter’s acolyte and the pronounced first-choice goalkeeper for some time now. He hasn’t anchored a World Cup qualifying campaign yet, however, and that’s generally the biggest test around these parts.
Zack Steffen has been sidelined with a knee injury after making a promising start to his loan spell in the Bundesliga – do you think this will hinder his ambitions at Manchester City in any way?
It’s hard to say without knowing the details of his current fitness, specifically his recovery from the last one. He’s had a really unfortunate string of knee issues over the past few years and probably has to prove his durability to Manchester City’s technical staff in the near future.
Claudio Bravo, along with many of Manchester City’s recent second choice goalkeepers have had an excellent record of saving penalties. What is Steffen like when it comes to making saves from the spot?
Penalties are a Steffen specialty. He led Columbus to first-round play-off upsets in 2017 (at Atlanta) and 2018 (at Wayne Rooney’s DC United) and left MLS as one of the league’s all-time best penalty kick stoppers.
Reports in England, specifically the Manchester Evening News, have suggested that he will look to push Ederson for the number one spot at Manchester City. Do you think has the ability to do that?
He certainly has the ability and the ambition, the question is being not only good enough but lucky enough (in terms of circumstances breaking in his favour) to pull it off. I think it’s safe to say that this is the biggest challenge of his professional career and the first truly daunting one set in front of him in terms of the quality of his competitor and the squad overall, the complexity of the system, the high-stakes environment, the intense scrutiny he’ll be under, etc. And while Manchester City won’t be completely new to him, it’s essentially his first season at the club.
Both Tim Howard and Brad Guzan had success as Premier League goalkeepers, do you hope Steffen can follow in their footsteps?
It’s an irresistible comparison to draw, isn’t it? Considering what a goalkeeper factory the US once was, over the past decade or so this country had a couple of lost generations of talent at the position and Zack Steffen is the brightest star to come along in some time. He’s got all the tools to reach Howard and Guzan’s level but should he do so, it will renew the old challenge they faced, which was to not only be a Premier League starter, but to do so for a quote-unquote big club that wins big trophies.
A big thank you to Charles for providing an insight into the latest goalkeeping recruit at the Etihad Stadium. You can follow him on Twitter here: @cboehm
You can follow us for live Manchester City transfer updates here: @City_Xtra