By Clemente Lisi – NEW YORK, NY (Aug 7, 2023) US Soccer Players – This past Sunday, Arsenal beat Manchester United for the Community Shield, the kickoff for the start of the season for England’s topflight. Both of those teams have USMNT goalkeepers on their books, and there’s a long connection between the Premier League and American goalkeepers.
Going back to the early years of the Premier League in the mid-1990s, USMNT goalkeepers Juergen Sommer was at Queens Park Rangers starting in 1995-96, Kasey Keller with Leicester City in 1996-97, and Brad Friedel at Liverpool in 1997-98. Those would be the three goalkeepers on the 1998 USMNT World Cup squad.
While Sommer moved to MLS that summer and Keller left the following season for La Liga, Friedel would end up making 288 Premier League appearances with Blackburn Rovers, another 114 with Aston Villa, and an additional 50 with Spurs. Keller was back in the Premier League with Spurs in 2001-02, meaning another USMNT World Cup squad with at least two Premier League keepers on the USMNT roster. For 2003-04, Tim Howard would move to the Premier League first at Manchester United, where he made 45 appearances, and later at Everton, adding 354 more Premier League games.
Marcus Hahnemann won promotion with Reading for the 2006-07 season and was part of the 2006 World Cup squad along with Keller, then with Gladbach in the Bundesliga, and Howard. Brad Guzan would also make the move from MLS, joining Aston Villa for the 2008-09 season and ultimately playing in 144 Premier League games and another 10 with Middlesbrough. Howard and Guzan were both in the 2010 and 2014 World Cup squads.
These players broke barriers and proved that American talent can thrive in the demanding environment of English soccer. These days, the Premier League features Matt Turner, Zack Steffen, and Ethan Horvath. This trio represents both the success of American goalkeepers and recognition that this is a country that continues to produce amazing netminders. They also represent the challenges that come with playing abroad, the fight for minutes, and how loan spells and transfer deals could change the fortunes of these goalkeepers going forward.
Matt Turner (Arsenal)
Take, for example, Turner. He rose from relative obscurity to success in MLS with the New England Revolution just a few seasons ago. That helped him make a move to Arsenal, as a back-up to Aaron Ramsdale, and a starter for the United States at last year’s World Cup in Qatar. Turner made no appearances in last season’s Premier League when the Gunners finished runners up to Manchester City. The 29-year-old played in five Europa league and two FA Cup games last season.
This coming season, Turner is again the back-up, but in the ever-changing world of the transfer season, it remains a possibility that he could be loaned out to another club this summer. Premier League club Nottingham Forest recently put in a bid for Turner, who looked impressive this summer during both the Concacaf Nations League and Gold Cup.
Zack Steffen (Manchester City)
That’s what Steffen has successfully done in recent years. He signed with Man City in 2019 and was subsequently loaned out to German club Fortuna Dusseldorf during the 2019-20 season. Steffen returned to Manchester City as the back-up, but again benefitted from a loan spell last season with Championship side Middlesbrough.
The club finished fourth, making the playoffs but falling short of promotion, with Steffen making 45 appearances across all competitions. Steffen starts this coming season with decisions about his future on hold. Surgery to a knee at the end of May will sideline him for up to four months.
Ethan Horvath (Nottingham Forest)
Another American who has gotten a lot of attention in England is Horvath, joining Nottingham Forest from a successful run domestically and in Europe with Club Brugge. Horvath’s journey to England is a prime example of the growing reputation of American goalkeepers.
Last season, Horvath was loaned out to Luton Town where he played in 51 games across all competitions and helped the club gain promotion to the Premier League for the first time in the club’s history. That came a year after subbing into the Championship Play-Off Final that helped Nottingham Forest gain promotion to top-flight soccer. After that second-consecutive playoff run and making the USMNT’s 2022 World Cup squad, he is back at Nottingham Forest this season.
Gabriel Slonina (Chelsea)
Another goalkeeper making a big move from MLS to the Premier League, Slonina impressed in eight starts for the London club’s Under-21 team. The 19-year-old goalkeeper made his first appearance for Chelsea on July 30 during preseason, playing 60 minutes in a 2-0 win over Fulham in a preseason match at FedEx Field.
Asked after the game about Slonina’s form, Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino said, “We need more time to discover how they are and of course, if the club signs him it’s because they believe in him and they believe that he is a great talent. We need to decide if it is better to continue with us or what is the best way for him to grow and be one of the greatest ‘keepers in the world.”
In fact, the ability to train and play with some of England’s best clubs has been a major boost for the National Team as it prepares for the 2026 World Cup. Despite some challenges, American goalkeepers continue to draw attention from English clubs. Given the opportunity, this season’s group of USMNT goalkeepers should provide more reasons why.
Clemente Lisi is a regular contributor to US Soccer Players. He is also the author of the new book “The FIFA World Cup: A History of the Planet’s Biggest Sporting Event.”