BOSTON, Mass. – Matt Reis has been keeping tabs on Matt Turner’s progress for months – and not just because Turner is his latest successor in net for the New England Revolution.
Until recently, it’s been part of Reis’s job to assess goalkeepers.
He did so last season as Columbus Crew SC’s goalkeeper coach, a position he resigned last month to be closer to his family in Los Angeles, and also from 2017-18, when he held the same job with the U.S. men’s national team.
Turner, who is currently participating in his first national team camp, has been difficult to overlook. He started the 2019 season as the Revolution’s third-stringer, then won the starting role in May and proceeded to play a key part in helping New England return to the playoffs for the first time in three years.
Goalkeepers Brad Guzan of Atlanta United and Sean Johnson of New York City FC are also on the U.S. roster with Turner, who was on the bench for Friday’s 4-1 Concacaf Nations League win against Canada in Orlando. Though Turner likely won’t play against Cuba on Tuesday night in George Town, Cayman Islands, Reis said the 25-year-old prospect has still had a role to play in camp.
“It’s about his attitude and effort,” Reis told Pro Soccer USA in a phone interview Monday. “A lot of it is about having two guys that are experienced goalkeepers and a third goalkeeper that’s going to be more of a role player. Maybe he takes shots for the other two goalkeepers. He’s got to be selfless.
“For us, that was Nick Rimando,” Reis added, referring to the newly-retired Real Salt Lake shot-stopper who spent the last two World Cup cycles as the third-string. “He’d do anything you’d ask in training, and he’d do it well and with a smile…With three goalkeepers, that’s what you look for. But [Matt] has an opportunity to impress. If he makes the most of his time and has a good attitude, he’ll get the calls back.”
There’s plenty of competition among goalkeepers for inclusion on the USMNT. The player pool includes Zack Steffen, who is not on the current roster due to an apparent knee injury, but has started most U.S. games in the last two years.
Johnson and Guzan are in the mix as well with Bill Hamid of D.C. United, Jesse Gonzalez of FC Dallas, Tyler Miller of Los Angeles FC, and Alex Bono of Toronto FC – all of whom play for MLS teams that clinched playoff berths in 2019.
European-based talents Jonathan Klinsmann and Ethan Horvath of St. Gallen and Club Brugge, respectively, have earned calls recently as well.
Reis competed in a similar environment when he was an alternate for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, as Tim Howard, Kasey Keller, and Marcus Hahnemann made the U.S.’s 23-man roster for the tournament.
“Only three guys can get called in at once and it’s a pretty stacked pool,” Reis said. “What’s important is that Matt starts for the Revolution next year, does well, and also gets into January camp. He’s still young. He has plenty of games to play.”
Turner and Reis share some traits. There’s the obvious: they have the same first name and have played for the Revolution. And then there’s both their knack for shot-stopping and making game deciding saves.
These are big saves – the kind that transcend stat sheets and defy expectations – and they’ve been as much a hallmark of Turner’s brief time with the Revolution as they were during Reis’ 11-year run.
Turner also had to win the starting goalkeeper job from Cody Cropper and Brad Knighton last season, much like Reis had to do in 2004 against Adin Brown.
But Turner still has a long way to go reach Reis-level stats.
Reis is a four-time MLS All-Star, guided the Revolution to three MLS Cup finals, a U.S. Open Cup title, a Superliga title, and shows up near the top of many MLS goalkeeping metrics.
He leads most of the Revolution’s goalkeeping statistical categories as well. He’s first in matches played in goal (254), starts in goal (253), minutes played (22,697), shots faced (1,368), saves (989), clean sheets (66), and goals against average (1.33).
With time, Turner could reach those numbers. And if he keeps earning international call-ups, he may see more playing time for the USMNT than Reis did.
“He has to continue to play at a high level in MLS so they can’t not bring him in,” said Reis, who made two competitive appearances with the U.S. “When I was [coaching] with the national team, we noticed his breakthrough, then this year he took back the starting job with the Revolution, which was a great accomplishment.
“I don’t really have an affiliation with the Revs anymore, but I spent more than 10 years there and New England was one of two clubs I ever played for,” Reis added. “It’s good to see someone stepping up to the plate, doing it the way Matt is. It’s good for him, and great for the Revs.”