US men’s national team goalkeeper Zack Steffen discussed his shocking omission from Gregg Berhalter’s 26-player World Cup roster: “I was shocked, I was mad.”
Steffen played an integral role in the USMNT’s Concacaf qualifiers, starting six of 14 matches to tally 29 caps overall. He stood as Gregg Berhatler’s number one goalkeeping option in the years leading up to the international tournament, trumping Matt Turner and Ethan Horvath in the hierarchy.
Though he suffered some injury spells that left him out of USMNT camps, the American goalkeeper was a key component of the team. But despite consistent involvement, he failed to make the final World Cup roster.
“[Zack and I] go way back and Zack’s been there for me a bunch of times, to tell him he’s not going to be a part of the World Cup team was heartbreaking,” said Berhalter when announcing the roster. “I think it’s more about who we do have and the comfort level with the guys that are on the roster, we felt really comfortable with Matt [Turner], Ethan [Horvath], and Sean [Johnson] and that’s the decision we decided to go with.”
But the Manchester City goalkeeper, who is currently on loan with Middlesbrough, detailed the other side of Gregg Berhalter’s decision.
“It’s between him and I. We had a 10, 15-minute conversation. I was shocked, I was mad. He said he wasn’t taking me on the roster,” Steffen says of the phone call with Berhalter.
“Obviously it was a big blow. I definitely was heartbroken and it takes time to get over it. Now that it’s been some time and I’ve had some reflection, it’s in the past. I move on. I’m just using that as motivation. Like I say, that’s how life goes, how football goes. There’s only 26 players who can go. It’s just how it is,” he said to the Athletic.
“It hurt. I try to be understanding and see both sides of everything, but it was tough, the last month, to deal with this. I was able to watch the games. It wasn’t easy. But I still wanted to support them, see them do the best they can, prove the world wrong – that we can play and we’re a force to be reckoned with. It was hard to do that, but we’re only in the World Cup every four years.”
Steffen went on to explain his absence from the September USMNT camp, the last team concentration prior to the World Cup.
“That was through my choice. I was…I decided to call out of camp because I was having mental health issues back in May and June. That’s why I missed that. I’d missed it to be home with my family. He’s the coach and he makes decisions. So, yeah, I was there in March and April…he made his decision.”
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