Everyone’s having a whirlwind 2020, but Zack Steffen year has involved finding his place in a new role at Premier League powers Manchester City.
It’s Steffen’s first time as a back-up in some time, the USMNT’s No. 1 goalkeeper having starred on loan at Fortuna Dusseldorf last season following a starring role with the Columbus Crew in Major League Soccer.
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Steffen, 25, played in Burnley and Bournemouth in the League Cup, winning both while keeping one clean sheet.
He’s hopeful that more starts are on the horizon, but Steffen believes his improvement is happening in training as well.
“Watching those guys and being on high alert every training, you grow mentally,” Steffen said during a Zoom call with the media on Tuesday as the United States men’s national team prepares to play Wales and Panama.
“It’s pushing me in ways that I definitely wasn’t pushed in the past in different levels of my career. It’s one of the best clubs in the world. I’m really enjoying learning how they view football. In every aspect, it’s quicker, faster, more intense. You’ve really gotta be focused and dialed in. You can’t take days off, really any time off during training. It’s really good to see the professionalism of how these guys work.”
How is the training different?
“It’s more technical. They are so much more detailed than anything I’ve ever been a part of it, whether it’s hand position when you’re catching the ball or positioning when you’re 1v1 in a little duel. Stuff I knew of, but I never got the reasons of why they do them.”
That obviously stems from Pep Guardiola’s meticulous approach to the game, but Steffen says the legendary coach is more than tactics and intensity.
“He’s very smart, a very prestigious coach,” Steffen said. “It’s awesome to be on the inside and see how he works day-to-day. He has a good balance of being focused and intense, but with that he brings humor and his genuineness and kindness. It’s been cool to see how he works and how his coaching staff works.”
Some other intriguing quotes from Steffen include
Fans looking for wins from a promising generation of USMNT players: “America as a whole has high expectations. That’s how the mentality has to be to reach the levels that we have to reach.”
On not being No. 1 at Man City: “Games are different than training. We all know that. My plan is to get games. Coming from Germany, being out so long, City has given me a lot of confidence to go back out there.”
On meeting up with USWNT and Man City Women’s player Sam Mewis: “I met Sam the other day for the first time but we’ve been in contact since she came over. We got coffee the other day and caught up, chatted about Manchester life, the national teams, a little bit of Voycenow (his not-for-profit to help families in need).”
Zack Steffen on Man City, Pep Guardiola, high USMNT expectations originally appeared on NBCSports.com