Ethan Horvath is in top form these days. (Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
So, do you like the goalkeeper behind Door No. 1, Door No. 2 or Door No. 3?
Your guess probably is as good as Gregg Berhalter’s on who will start between the posts for the U.S. men’s national team for its first of three World Cup qualifiers against Mexico on March 24.
He can call on his favorite, Zach Steffen, who hasn’t played in a while for Manchester City in a while as he has nursed his back injury.
He can tap Sean Johnson, who has played reasonably well for New York City FC, although he had a subpar game in the 4-2 loss at Comunicaciones in the Concacaf Champions League on Tuesday night. City lost the second leg, but moved onto the semifinals. The teams finished at 5-5, but NYCFC had more away goals.
Or Berhalter can use Ethan Horvath, who is in form with Nottingham Forest.
The USMNT’s goalkeeping position became further muddied after Matt Turner, the 2021 MLS goalkeeper of the year, suffered a foot injury that has kept him out of the New England Revolution lineup this season.
During a media Zoom call with Berhalter on Thursday, a writer brought up a a rumor that Turner had been sidelined due to frostbite.
“His injury has nothing to do with frostbite,” Berhalter said. “The reason why he’s not playing, if you guys have been following their preseason and following their games, you’ll know exactly when it happened. It was a play in one of the games. So, it’s unfortunate, and hopefully he’s going to be back soon. We’re going to miss him this window.”
Steffen has training with his English Premier League club but hasn’t played a game since an English F.A. Cup match on Feb. 5, a 4-1 win over Fulham. He has played in only two matches since the new year.
“He’s in full training,” Berhalter said. “Speaking to the Manchester City staff, they’re confident enough to put them on a bench and he would have to play if there’s an injury. There’s potential that he plays this weekend. So he’s been training really well. We’ve been getting their feedback and he’s ready to go.”
So is Horvath, who has been in tip-top form.
“He’s definitely in contention. There’s no question about it,” Berhalter said. “He’s performed excellently and it’s going to be up to the last-minute decision. We’re going to have to assess both of them [Steffen] when they come into camp.”
Horvath backstopped his fifth consecutive match for Nottingham Forest in its 4-0 victory over Reading in the English Championship on Saturday. He was in the net for the 2-1 win over Huddersfield Town in the Round of 16 of the English F.A. Cup on Monday, March 7. Horvath, who is unbeaten (3-0-2) during that span, has conceded only two goals and recorded three clean sheets.
On June 7, he came off the bench and make a key penalty-kick save against Mexico in the Concacaf Nations League final win.