Matt Turner hasn’t had a chance to stop and reflect yet.
For one, he and his wife just had a child. He also just moved across the Atlantic Ocean to England, and now the 28-year-old goalkeeper is attempting to find first-team minutes in the English Premier League with Arsenal.
It’s a lot to process, and he simply hasn’t found the time.
“Obviously, as you can see, I haven’t even been able to get a haircut in a while,” Turner said, pointing to his scraggly beard as evidence of how hectic his life has become as he stood on the pitch at M&T Bank Stadium after Saturday night’s match between Arsenal and Everton.
But even if the rush of it all has prevented Turner from fully comprehending what he’s achieved, the U.S. men’s national team goalkeeper understands his journey has been special. And being here — wearing an Arsenal hoody after playing 90 minutes for the English Premier League club in a 2-0 preseason win — is proof of that.
Five years ago, Turner played for the third-division Richmond Kickers on loan. Now, though, he’s a contender to start in goal for the U.S. during the 2022 World Cup and completed a move this summer to Arsenal, one of the largest clubs in England.
It’s a testament to his perseverance. And Turner hopes that at least one of the announced 39,245 fans who watched him hold a clean sheet for Arsenal in Baltimore will be inspired to follow in his footsteps — working their way to one of the marquee leagues in the world, even if there are potholes along the way.
“In 10, 20 years down the road,” Turner said, “if somebody gets to the Premier League and drops my name in an interview and says, ‘I heard his story, I saw his story, and it inspired me to get here,’ that would just be a dream come true.”
The path to regular playing time at Arsenal is crowded, with Bernd Leno and Aaron Ramsdale standing in his way. He still holds the distinction of becoming one of the few American players to play for a Premier League club, although that number has risen in past years with the likes of Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic and Leeds United’s Tyler Adams.
Turner, a Park Ridge, New Jersey, native, had a chance to immediately show his new colors in front of an American crowd at M&T Bank Stadium. His wife and parents are in London, missing the trip, but Turner’s sisters and several friends were at the match, and he said he was able to pick them out of the crowd.
And despite being a new name for Arsenal — and hardly a star — the crowd recognized his every contribution. A pass that ran long and wound up in Turner’s possession in the 17th minute led to chants of “USA.” Those shouts continued through the night when he made his two saves or completed a goal kick.
“Hearing the chants of ‘USA’ as I’m going around the field, that’s a really good feeling,” Turner said. “I just hope there are kids in the stands tonight who look at me and look at my journey and think to themselves that it’s possible for them to also play in the Premier League.”
Turner went undrafted out of Fairfield before signing for the New England Revolution. His rise has been rapid, named the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year while also breaking into the U.S. men’s national team squad on a consistent basis.
Saturday was his second appearance for the Gunners, and it was an improvement over his first. Turner conceded two goals against FC Nürnberg on July 8 in a friendly, but Turner was solid in Baltimore, even if he wasn’t often tested en route to the shutout. As Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said, “it was a big moment for him to wear an Arsenal shirt in the States.”
It’s a moment Turner hasn’t truly processed completely yet, not with a move abroad and a newborn baby to care for. But he hopes those on the outside will recognize it — and be inspired by it. One day, maybe they’ll be where Turner was Saturday night, returning to the U.S. after reaching soccer’s pinnacle.