Despite playing in an unusual time of year, the 2022 Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup is well underway as 32 countries have traveled to Qatar to compete to be among the world’s best in the sport of soccer.
One of the 32 teams competing in the big dance this time around is the United States, who return to the world’s biggest stage after missing out in 2018. This U.S. squad is a very different bunch this time around, as they only have one player with World Cup experience along with possessing the second-youngest roster out of any country participating, with an average age of 25 years.
One of the new players that happens to be heavily involved in their World Cup run so far is none other than Matt Turner ‘17. Turner played on the Fairfield University men’s soccer team for four years from 2012-2015. During his time manning the pipes for the Stags, he went 14-10-12 while making 152 saves to go along with a 0.77 goals against average. Most of his appearances came during his final two seasons, being named to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference all-second team his senior season.
After departing Fairfield, Turner began to work his way up the ladder by signing his first professional contract with the New England Revolution of Major League Soccer in March 2016. The club loaned him to the Richmond Kickers of the United Soccer League for two seasons to get him accustomed to the professional ranks. During his time with the Kickers, he would record seven shutouts in 27 starts.
Turner moved up the ranks the next season as he beat out two fellow goaltenders to be the starting netminder for the Revolution. He would be their primary goaltender until his departure from the club in 2022. Some of his accomplishments during his time as a “Rev” include being named a finalist for the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award in 2020 after a breakout season, as well as being named the 2021 MLS All-Star Game MVP after making two penalty saves against Liga MX All-stars. After being a finalist for the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award in 2020, he took home the prize in 2021. During his tenure with the Revs, Turner appeared in 102 games, making 344 saves, possessing a 1.33 goals against per 90 minutes, as well as collecting 22 clean sheets.
Turner would see his career move overseas in 2022, as he signed a contract with Premier League club Arsenal in February of 2022. He made his club debut in July in a friendly match against German club FC Nürnberg, taking part in a 5-3 Arsenal win. He made his competitive debut against FC Zurich in the 2022-23 UEFA Europa League group stage, securing the 2-1 win for Arsenal. He recorded his first shutout for the club in a 3-0 win against Norwegian football club FK Bodø/Glimt in the subsequent Europa League fixture. Following this, Turner recorded back-to-back shutouts, defeating FK Bodø/Glimt again as well as Dutch football club PSV Eindhoven.
In addition to his professional career, Turner made his international debut in January 2021, starting in an exhibition contest for the U.S. against Trinidad and Tobago. He recorded a shutout, stopping a penalty kick from Trinidadian full-back Alvin Jones in the process.
He gained more international exposure by starting all six contests for the U.S. in the 2021 Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) World Cup. He recorded five shutouts in their championship run, including a 1-0 win over Mexico in the final. In recognition of his elite performance, Turner was named the best goalkeeper in the tournament.
In Nov. 2022, Turner received the big news of being selected to the U.S. men’s roster for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. In his international debut, a draw against Wales, Turner made two saves while giving up his only goal against Gareth Bale on a penalty shot. He then recorded a clean sheet against England, making three saves in the process.
If there is one person that couldn’t be more proud of Turner here at Fairfield, it would be current men’s soccer Associate Head Coach Javier Decima, who once worked with Turner as one of the goaltending coaches before being promoted to his current position in 2019.
When asked about his performance, Decima could not be more proud of his former protege.
“We are extremely happy for Matt and his family,” Decima says. “This is a dream come true for Matt and all of us who have seen his pathway to the world’s biggest stage. I was fortunate enough to have someone of the mind frame of Matt, he wanted to improve every minute that he had.”
When asked what were some of the little things that he learned at Fairfield that enabled him to have success at the highest level, Decima explained that they worked on all aspects of the game so he could become a complete player.
“We worked on all aspects of his game, I can say that the side volley he hit the other day looks very familiar,” Decima reminisces.
Turner continued his brilliant performance on Tuesday, Nov. 29, when he collected another clean sheet against Iran in a 1-0 victory. Thanks to his efforts, the U.S. men’s team will advance to the knockout stage in a matchup against the Netherlands on Saturday, Dec. 2 at 10 a.m. You can watch the game on Fox.