FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – A quick scan of the New England Revolution roster reveals a couple of obvious game changers in Carles Gil and Gustavo Bou – the types of players who can win you a match on their own with a moment of magic.
But there’s another name that should unquestionably be mentioned in the same breath as Gil and Bou, particularly when it comes to those match-winning moments: Matt Turner.
“When you have a goalkeeper who doesn’t lose you games, he doesn’t make mistakes that cost you goals, and he can still make one or two outstanding saves a game, that’s huge,” said sporting director and head coach Bruce Arena. “He’s been equally important as anyone to us getting results.”
The latest example came in Sunday night’s playoff-clinching, 2-0 win over New York City FC. Turner made a stellar stop on a tight-angle Alexandru Mitrita free kick in the 62nd minute, setting the stage for Teal Bunbury’s game-winning goal just four minutes later. He then made another big-time save on Heber to preserve the lead in the 85th minute, shortly before Bou put the game away with his audacious chip.
Those types of moments have become the norm for Turner, now in his fourth year as a pro and his second as the Revs’ starter, having briefly lost the job at the beginning of this season. There were late saves in Orlando and New Jersey to preserve important road draws, and a point-blank stop in Colorado to preserve a win. Time and time again, he’s made the saves you wouldn’t expect a goalkeeper to make.
As much as any goal scorer or creative playmaker, Turner has proven to be a match winner.
“Matt’s been amazing,” said center back Antonio Delamea. “You can say he was probably the most (consistent) player besides Carles this year. He saved us a couple times, it’s true. We just appreciate his hard work. At the end of the day, he’s one of the most humble guys on the team – always positive.”
The statistics speak for themselves. Turner’s 76.2 save percentage is second in all of MLS behind only Portland Timbers’ goalkeeper Steve Clark, and his goals against average – currently 1.26 with one game left in the regular season – could be the lowest for a Revolution goalkeeper in 10 years.
That type of consistency earned Turner a new contract – signed in August – but it’s the 25-year-old’s uncanny ability to make big-time saves in big-time moments that could prove most important as the Revs begin the postseason two weeks from now in either Atlanta or Philadelphia.
“Obviously the regular season’s a little bit different, but once it comes to the playoffs, when you have one game, you need your keeper to make two, three key saves,” said defender Andrew Farrell. “If you go down in a game, or if you go up and then you have to have a big save to keep you in the lead, in a 90-minute game, that’s all it could do to advance you to the next round.
“So as much as you don’t think goalkeepers can win you games, Turner’s won us a lot of games this year.”