MLS notebook: Matt Turner prepares to take the Arsenal plunge, while New York turns red
If there’s one thing you take away from Matt Turner’s story up to this point, it’s to dream big.
The Arsenal-bound goalkeeper signed his first professional contract with the New England Revolution just six years ago, but it actually took some convincing, because he was contemplating settling for a job in the business world at the time.
The path, as it has been for much of his life, was not easy. Turner got into the sport late, and it was just something that happened in his teenage years, not necessarily as a passion. The keeper had some success in 39 appearances at Fairfield University, yet he arrived in Major League Soccer undrafted and largely unknown.
Turner couldn’t have imagined what the future had in store for him. He quickly became one of the best goalkeepers in MLS, transitioned into a crucial piece for the United States men’s national team and is now off to join Arsenal in the Premier League.
“Everything worked out the way it was supposed to,” said Turner, who became an Arsenal fan as a kid thanks to his older sisters.
That distinction is important because when asked what inspires him, Turner mentions his family without hesitation. Growing up in close-knit New Jersey, they were always there to pull him up during hard times but also keep him humble. He also already has a support system in London, including a cousin, Revolution goalkeeper coach Kevin Hitchcock’s family, and about a dozen college friends.
Turner spent his final game with the Revolution on Sunday watching from the bench, in what seemed an odd decision from Bruce Arena. Turner, of course, put it into perspective.
“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 [Petrovic] has been playing well,” he said about his successor. “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.”
Now Turner is off to England. Whether or not the Arsenal move will be ideal for him heading into the 2022 World Cup is still unknown. USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter has already mentioned the No. 1, whoever it ends up being, needs to be someone regularly getting playing time, so that might complicate things a bit for Turner as he gets acclimated to the Premier League.
Regardless, the mission remains the same.
“It’s going to be an amazing step in my story, but that novelty will wear off pretty soon because I understand that going there is going to require a lot of focus, dedication and sacrifice,” Turner said. “I’m gonna have to put my best foot forward every single day if I want to have even a sniff of success.”
Sounds pretty similar to what he’s been doing his whole soccer career, and that seems to be working just fine.
U.S. Open Cup rivalry, rout, Cupset
Both New York teams are riding high atop the Eastern Conference standings, and they had a perfect chance to rekindle their rivalry in an elimination game.
Unfortunately for NYCFC, despite dominating with 65% of the possession, they were shut out and knocked out of the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday by the Red Bulls. RBNY's Lewis Morgan continued his great form as he opened the scoring, and 10 minutes later NYCFC's Thiago Andrade was shown a straight red for a headbutt and the visitors were never able to recover with a man down.
Elsewhere, Sporting Kansas City took care of business and demolished USL League One side Union Omaha 6-0. But the most surprising result of the week happened in SoCal on Tuesday, as the Galaxy were stunned by USL side Sacramento Republic 2-1 at home.
Greg Vanney’s squad was trailing just four minutes into the game as Sacramento brought a different energy to the match. The equalizer came off an own goal from a corner kick, and the Galaxy surprisingly looked like the second-best team on the night. A strike from distance in the 70th minute, which seemed like it should’ve been an easy save for keeper Jonathan Klinsmann, ended up being the winner for the Republic.
After thoroughly dominating rival LAFC the round before, the Galaxy let a prime opportunity at a trophy slip. And once again, there are a lot more questions than answers in Carson.
The last semifinalist will be the winner of Orlando City vs. Nashville, which will be played on June 29 in Florida.
Speaking of which …
End of the Nashville home streak
Nashville lost at home 2-1 to Sporting Kansas City on Sunday, its first home loss since November 4, 2020. That run spanned 25 matches across all competitions and two different stadiums. In those 593 days, Nashville SC outscored its opponents 51-25.
The streak was going to end eventually, but the SKC setback left head coach Gary Smith disappointed due to his team’s ineffectiveness. Aside from the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal, we’re about to learn a lot about Nashville over the next month. The next three visitors to GEODIS Park: Portland, Seattle and LAFC.
Don’t sleep on RSL
The hottest team in MLS is perhaps one people aren’t paying attention to. Real Salt Lake is quietly off to the best start in club history, with 28 points from 16 matches, and is right in the Supporters’ Shield mix halfway through the season.
This shouldn’t be that shocking, considering the run RSL made to the Western Conference final last season. But they somehow are exceeding expectations. They are 6-0-1 at Rio Tinto Stadium this year, joining the Philadelphia Union as the only two teams unbeaten at home. No names on the roster necessarily jump out at you, but it’s kind of reminiscent to what the Rapids did last season en route to finishing No. 1 in the West in the regular season.
“I think it validates all the work that we've been doing starting last year going into preseason, and building the culture and really the guys taking it and running with it,” coach Pablo Mastroeni said after a recent 2-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes.
Are stars aligned in L.A.?
As July rapidly approaches and Carlos Vela’s contract is set to expire, we still know absolutely nothing about what’s next. There were reports months ago saying a deal was basically done, but Vela himself reiterates nothing has been signed yet. The door is half open, or closed, depending on what way you choose to look at it.
Is there perhaps a standoff due to money and contract length, or is LAFC just dragging this out for no good reason? The Black and Gold made a splash signing Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini, who might have been intrigued by the idea of playing on a team with Vela.
The feeling is mutual from the Mexican.
“(I) hope he can be the piece we need to make that jump and finally get the trophy for this club,” Vela said.
So all indications are he’s staying. But until it's officially announced, LAFC fans will remain on edge.