Clint Dempsey on the key to the USMNT's goalkeeper conundrum

Chris Smith
Berhalter faces a headache between the sticks.
Berhalter faces a headache between the sticks. / John Dorton/ISI Photos/GettyImages

Gregg Berhalter has a lot of questions to answer before he takes the United States Men's National Team to the 2022 World Cup, but chief among them is who will line up in goal.

At present, the Stars and Stripes face the terrifying prospect of having their preferred top two choices riding the bench for their clubs, with Zack Steffen stuck behind Ederson at Manchester City and Matt Turner set to join Arsenal, whose current No.1 is England prospect Aaron Ramsdale.

Steffen has been the man most turned to by Berhatler but while labeling him a 'liability' would be harsh, he didn't cover himself in glory during World Cup qualifying. Neither has he looked sharp when called upon at club level, most recently making a costly error in possession to allow Sadio Mane a goal during Man City's FA Cup semi-final defeat to Liverpool.

Only Steffen will know the true cause of his downturn, but a lack of match sharpness and the confidence that drains from you won't be helping a goalkeeper previously so secure for the Columbus Crew that City forked out over $7m to bring him across the Atlantic.

Ramsdale hasn't been overly convincing over recent months after a great start to life at Arsenal, but it's hard to see Mikel Arteta doing anything other than show faith in the young Englishman, regardless of how hard Turner pushes.

Should he succumb to the same fate as Steffen, the USMNT's realistic options start to look thin: an inexperienced Gabriel Slonina who may yet choose Poland, Ethan Horvath who has lost his starting place with Nottingham Forest, NYCFC's Sean Johnson who has just nine senior caps. The list goes on.

Former USMNT forward Clint Dempsey may not have experience as a goalkeeper, but he was the bane of plenty during a playing career that yielded 57 international goals, and another 154 at club level, including 57 in the Premier League.

Ahead of his induction to the US National Soccer Hall of Fame, Dempsey urged the USMNT's goalkeepers - and outfield players - to consider going out on loan if they're not getting regular minutes at their parent clubs ahead of the World Cup.

“Whoever is going to win that spot is whoever is going to be playing more consistently,” said the 39-year-old. “If you’re not playing consistently for your club that you're on, then you need to go on loan and get those minutes. Because it's all about being sharp when that time comes. So it will be interesting to see what happens for Turner and Steffen in July and August, what decisions are made there."

Dempsey added: “Not only the goalies, but I think all the field players as well, they need to be playing for their club teams come August and trying to get on a good run of form. Because that's what you're going to need to go far in that tournament.”

Berhalter himself remains relaxed about the situation, confident his crop of stoppers will come good in time for Qatar 2022.

“Zack is a very good goalkeeper, he's done really good games in the past, he's going to continue to do good games," he said recently. "Matt Turner’s going to get back into form and keep doing his thing. Gaga’s a young, up-and-coming goalkeeper, we have Sean Johnson, who’s been strong in the league. Ethan Horvath’s contributed well. I'm confident that when November comes around, one of those guys will be able to do a great job and play."