FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – When head coach Brad Friedel said it was an open competition for the New England Revolution’s starting goalkeeper job this preseason, many assumed that veterans Cody Cropper and Brad Knighton would fight it out for the number one shirt while 23-year-old Matt Turner continued to learn the ropes as the third-string goalkeeper.
Of course, we all know what happens when people assume.
Turner beat out both Cropper, fresh off the U.S. National Team’s January camp after making 28 starts last season, and Knighton, an 11-year veteran with 60 appearances in the league, for the honor of starting last weekend’s season opener against the Philadelphia Union.
Knighton was the backup at Talen Energy Stadium, and while Cropper was back home in New England dealing with an illness, Friedel made it clear that Turner, who had never made a first-team appearance in two seasons with the Revs, had won the starting job outright.
“Matt Turner would’ve started nonetheless, whether Cody was ill or not,” Friedel said postgame. “Matt has been exceptionally good throughout preseason, and he deserved the right to play today. I thought he made some good saves in some very windy conditions, which is not easy for a goalkeeper.”
Turner finished with four saves in the Revs’ 2-0 loss to Philadelphia, facing a bit of a barrage as the shorthanded Revs played with 10 men from the 24th minute on, and with nine for the closing stages.
It wasn’t exactly the MLS debut Turner had dreamt about, but it was still a highly emotional night for a young goalkeeper who only began playing soccer in high school, and who believed in his own abilities throughout the preseason battle for the starting spot.
“Throughout preseason, I felt I was in the running for the job the whole time,” Turner said. “They instilled confidence in me that as long as I was on the field trying to make positive things happen, and moving on to the next play and showing the ability to communicate well with the team, I was going to have a chance to win the job.”
Turner, who benefitted from making 27 appearances with the Richmond Kickers on a series of short-term loans the past two seasons, didn’t find out he was starting until a couple hours before kickoff, but still managed to alert his parents and a few friends to make the trip from New Jersey to catch his debut.
With those initial 90 minutes under his belt, Turner now aims to become a consistent number one, and he’s preparing to once again get the starting nod for the Revolution’s home opener on Saturday afternoon against the Colorado Rapids (1:30 p.m., TICKETS).
“I’ve worked hard over the last two seasons,” Turner said. “I traveled and played a lot in the USL to get to this moment. It’s really nice, (but) disappointing to lose, obviously. Now it’s about getting consistent and finding three points [this weekend] in front of our home fans.”