Analysing the USMNT’s Matt Turner: ‘Ineffective together with his toes’ or unfairly maligned?


Matt Turner put his gloved arms on his head, grimaced and, for a second, stood stock-still as if in a daze.

Within the earlier six seconds, his underhit go in direction of team-mate Danilo had been intercepted by Alejandro Garnacho after which tucked into the nook of the Nottingham Forest internet with one swish of Marcus Rashford’s proper foot.

It had not been Turner’s first unconvincing second when it got here to his passing in that sport in opposition to Manchester United, or the previous fixtures; one thing UK broadcaster Sky Sports activities’ commentary crew, the world of social media and maybe his new head coach famous in numerous methods.

“Ineffective together with his toes,” was former United and England defender Gary Neville’s brutal evaluation on Sky.

Turner, although, is nothing if not resilient. Whereas his error noticed United rating to make it 1-1 simply over per week in the past, a subsequent robust save he made was the catalyst for an assault that helped Forest recapture their lead. Just like the USMNT worldwide of their purpose, Forest didn’t wilt from there and noticed out a 2-1 win in Nuno Espirito Santo’s third sport in cost.

It meant they completed a tumultuous 2023 on a excessive and 5 factors away from the Premier League’s three relegation locations, however the blissful ending didn’t utterly dim the noise about Turner’s suitability for a transfer in direction of the possession soccer each his earlier and new supervisor on the membership need them to play.

It additionally ensured the competition between Turner and fellow summer season signing Odysseas Vlachodimos to retain Forest’s goalkeeper jersey continues.


Turner and Vlachodimos are competing to be Forest’s first-choice goalkeeper (Nick Potts/PA Pictures by way of Getty Pictures)

However how do the pair match up in relation to these key metrics? And the way has Turner — who has began 15 of Forest’s Premier League video games this season, to 5 for the Greece worldwide — carried out compared to the remainder of the highest flight’s goalkeepers?


The very first thing to notice is that, regardless of the eye and powerful criticism of his current errors, Turner shouldn’t be among the many worst Premier League goalkeepers this season when ranked on failed passes in their very own half per 90 minutes. Certainly, among the many gamers to have appeared in purpose for the 20 top-flight sides to date in 2023-24, he’s as near first place as to final — twelfth of 24, together with his fee of 1.93 matching the league common.

His fiercest critics could think about him among the many worst offenders, however the high three on that failed go metric are Chelsea’s Robert Sanchez, Guglielmo Vicario of Tottenham Hotspur and Burnley’s James Trafford. As a substitute, Turner is nestled round many mid-table groups’ distributive goalkeepers. Vlachodimos, albeit primarily based on a a lot smaller pattern dimension of solely 5 video games, fares higher in twenty fourth — enjoying fewer failed passes in his personal half than every other top-flight keeper.

On a separate word, Turner has made 4 errors in possession which have led to opposition pictures within the subsequent 12 seconds of play, with these makes an attempt value 0.62 xG — the eighth-highest amongst Premier League goalkeepers this season.

It has not helped Turner that his errors have occurred in fast succession, drawing extra consideration to the problem.

Whereas that mistake in opposition to United didn’t in the end show too expensive, three matches earlier, within the dwelling sport in opposition to Tottenham, he had additionally been left seeking to the heavens with frustration following his personal mishap. In what proved the ultimate sport earlier than Steve Cooper was sacked and changed with Nuno, the American price his facet a purpose with one other rushed, sloppy go.

First, Neco Williams over-elaborates in possession and, underneath strain, passes again to Turner. The goalkeeper’s hurried clearance is a) brief and b) straight to Dejan Kulusevski.

The Spurs ahead bears down on purpose and, to compound his preliminary mistake, Turner is then overwhelmed at his close to submit by the ensuing shot.

Vlachodimos actually fares higher in any comparability with the ball at his toes.

However it’s Turner’s superior shot-stopping that presumably prompted Cooper and Nuno to pick him forward of the Greek in current weeks regardless of these passing errors.

Towards Bournemouth on December 23, in Nuno’s first sport in cost, Forest — having been lowered to 10 males after defender Willy Boly’s first-half pink card — suffered a 3-2 dwelling defeat however not one of the targets had been the results of a obtrusive howler from Turner. Nuno then caught with him for the subsequent sport in opposition to Newcastle United, and was rewarded with an improved efficiency that noticed Turner full 5 of seven tried saves and file an 80 per cent passing completion in Forest’s 3-1 away win.

As detailed above, his copybook was blended within the subsequent victory, over Manchester United, however, until Forest transfer to signal one other goalkeeper within the at the moment open winter switch window, they could look to change the best way they construct play from the again to restrict the requirement for Turner to do one thing he’s not adept at.


Whether or not he can enhance his passing stays to be seen however it isn’t a brand new drawback, in keeping with The Athletic’s goalkeeping analyst, and former skilled keeper, Matt Pyzdrowski.

“I recall questioning if his (Turner’s) points with distribution together with his toes had been affecting his possibilities of overhauling Zack Steffen to develop into No 1 with the nationwide crew,” Pyzdrowski says. “However then, Zach had his personal interval of low kind and Matt bought in.

“At Arsenal (Turner’s membership final season, earlier than his summer season transfer to Forest), in case you take a look at the video games he performed, they tended to be when the opponents didn’t press excessive. Coping with the ball at his toes when underneath strain is certainly an space he can enhance. When he has time, he can really play a pleasant vary of brief and lengthy passes.”

Pyzdrowski believes there are numerous stressors that is likely to be undermining his compatriot’s current kind, stretching again to the summer season signing of Vlachodimos for £7.7million ($9.8m) three weeks after Turner had arrived in Nottingham hoping lastly to safe common Premier League soccer following his season as second-string to Aaron Ramsdale at Arsenal.

“With Forest bringing in one other goalkeeper who can also be seen as a primary, it has added a psychological component to it as properly,” Pyzdrowski says. “The crew has been up and down, which doesn’t assist.

“I feel Gary Neville was harsh in commentary (through the United match). Matt is actually not ‘terrible’ with the ball at his toes, however clearly he might be higher. One factor that may assistance is being extra proactive and figuring out what he’s going to do with the ball earlier than he will get it. The longer he will get to work with the brand new supervisor, that might enhance.

“Will probably be attention-grabbing to see how each of them (Turner and Vlachodimos) adapt to the demand to go it extra, as a result of it’s in all probability not a energy for both of them.

“With a brand new demand like that, you’ll be able to overthink it and check out an excessive amount of to impress, which may result in errors. As a former keeper, Nuno could have extra sympathy to the pressures of being the goalie, however he can be underneath strain himself to get outcomes, and that usually results in scrutiny on key positions like goalkeeper.

“I can think about there are some individuals at Forest who worth Matt, and others who worth Vlachodimos.”

On the worldwide entrance, the 37-cap Turner has extra job safety than at membership degree. He has develop into coach Gregg Berhalter’s apparent No 1, enjoying in all 4 video games within the World Cup finals simply over a 12 months in the past, and being chosen for all of the USMNT’s necessary fixtures.

“In among the nationwide crew’s fixtures, just like the CONCACAF Nations League and World Cup qualifiers, the opposition are in all probability not going to press them excessive and aggressively, so he received’t be underneath as a lot strain,” says Pyzdrowski. “It’s normally solely Mexico or Canada who will problem them persistently and press.

“Towards historically higher nationwide groups, Berhalter tends to simplify it, and that’s suited Matt. They are going to adapt and blend it from enjoying brief or lengthy, or simply go direct.

“Matt additionally appears to have extra confidence with the USMNT as a result of he’s the clear first selection.”


Turner is the established first selection for the USA (Howard Smith/ISI Pictures/USSF/Getty Pictures for USSF)

The resilience which noticed Turner rise from being the third keeper at New England Revolution in MLS to enjoying for one of many Premier League’s high golf equipment will stand him in good stead to answer his newest setbacks.

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“He has had quite a bit occurring these days,” Pyzdrowski says. “Matt’s been adapting to a brand new membership, residing in a brand new space, and has simply develop into a father. In the event you’re at a secure membership that could be simpler, however Forest have sacked the supervisor who signed him. I perceive followers primarily take into consideration outcomes and, after the error in opposition to United appeared like it could price them, there was numerous social-media criticism. However he really responded properly, made some robust saves and was assured within the air.

“One factor you’ll be able to’t deny is the chances he has overcome to get the place he’s. He began late in soccer (at age 14) and has at all times had individuals who doubted whether or not he was adequate to play on the highest degree. I had my very own issues. However each time he has had his again in opposition to the wall, he has constructed himself again.”

Which may be the 29-year-old New Jersey native’s mindset now, and his New Yr social media message suggests Turner is prepared for the problem.

“Studying a lot week in and week out about life on and off the pitch,” he wrote on Instagram. “New metropolis, new crew, new member of the household suddenly! Trying ahead to extra recollections in 2024, possibly a bit much less chaotic eh?”

Nonetheless discovering his toes then, in each sense.

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Further reporting: John Muller

(High photograph: Ami Ford/NFFC by way of Getty Pictures)





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