6_19_22 Turner Sendoff

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Matt Turner didn’t keep a clean sheet on Sunday night. He didn’t save any penalties, make any jaw-dropping stops, or expertly command his backline. In fact, he didn’t even step on the field as the New England Revolution claimed a 2-1 win over Minnesota United FC at Gillette Stadium.

Turner didn’t do any of those things on Sunday because he didn’t need to, at least not anymore. He’d done them plenty enough during his six-plus seasons with the Revolution, accumulated enough highlights to fill an overflowing reel and enough memories to last a lifetime. So instead, Sunday’s sendoff match became just that – a sendoff – allowing Turner a chance to simply soak in the atmosphere one last time, enjoy the locker room banter with his teammates, and appreciate the adulation of the Foxborough faithful.

There was some discussion about Turner making one final appearance with the Revs before departing for Arsenal in the coming days, but in the end the reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year instead watched his successor, Djordje Petrović, stand on his head in the first half and help lead the Revs to victory.

That, in Turner’s eyes, was “a perfect night.”

“There’s definitely a lot of emotion and I give Bruce [Arena] and Kevin Hitchcock, credit to them, because they’re the ones that have sort of managed me through this week with all this buildup, all this tension for this one game,” Turner said. “The emotional nature of it all, it’s a lot. I’m still 27, 28 you know? I’m still learning how to cope with all that.

“On top of that, my wife’s in England nine months pregnant, so I’ve got a lot of stuff going on. Maybe I wouldn’t have put my best performance out there tonight, and then I’m kicking myself because I left on a bad note

“At the end of the day, it’s about more than me. This team has done well this week, got two good results, and Djordje has been playing well. So, grow him into the role. You don’t need to throw me into a one-off game just to say goodbye. It was a perfect night in every sense of the word.”

Sunday night featured plenty of fanfare. The matchday giveaway was a Matt Turner poster, there was a pregame read over the public address system, and a postgame highlight video. But nothing could match the emotion of Turner’s interactions with Revolution fans as he first joined the supporters’ groups on the capo stand to receive a gift – a flag signed by the supporters themselves that he said he’ll “cherish for the rest of (his) life” – and then completed a lap around the Gillette Stadium pitch.

Turner spent much of his seven years in New England building relationships with those fans – he has lamented the pandemic limiting those interactions the last three seasons – and he couldn’t contain his emotions as he was faced full force with the impact he has made, particularly on young Revolution fans.

“The signs that kids were holding up saying that they played goalkeeper because of me, it’s just in a competitive market like New England where the football team’s great and super popular, basketball team’s great and popular, same with baseball and hockey,” Turner said. “For me to have an influence on a few of the youth is just truly spectacular. I think that’s what really got me because I always looked up to people and the fact that people look up to me, especially here, it’s amazing. It’s amazing. I’m glad I could leave my mark in that sense.”

Turner left his mark on basically anyone associated with the New England Revolution organization since signing as an unheralded, undrafted free agent in March 2016. He has accomplished so much on the field it’s difficult to boil down to the highlights: MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, MLS Best XI, Revolution Team MVP, MLS All-Star Game MVP, Best Goalkeeper at the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup. His list of accolades is longer than a CVS receipt.

But Turner didn’t mention any of that on Sunday night. In fact, he hardly mentioned soccer. Instead, what Turner focused on were the relationships that he developed during his time in Foxborough – many of which he’ll take with him as he begins his next journey in London.

“It’s the people,” Turner said when asked what he’ll miss most. “It’s the media. It’s the fans. It’s the coaching staff. It’s Cynthia [McGrath], who helps give us our food every single day. It’s all those things. The athletic training staff, every little bit of it. I’m going to miss the people the most because, for me, one of the things I love about football and soccer is the relationships that you create. So many people from so many different backgrounds come together, and they’re all trying to achieve the same thing, which is to win a soccer game.

“No matter what your role is within this club, covering this club to hold the front office and the coaches and the players accountable, it’s all just this beautifully intertwined thing. So for me, it’s the people, no question.”

And for the people? It’s you, Matt. No question.