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Arsenal at top of list for Turner, not just for alphabet

February 17, 2022 GMT
United States goalkeeper Matt Turner talks to teammates during the second half of a FIFA World Cup qualifying soccer match against El Salvador, Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022, in Columbus, Ohio. The U.S. won 1-0. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
United States goalkeeper Matt Turner talks to teammates during the second half of a FIFA World Cup qualifying soccer match against El Salvador, Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022, in Columbus, Ohio. The U.S. won 1-0. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
United States goalkeeper Matt Turner talks to teammates during the second half of a FIFA World Cup qualifying soccer match against El Salvador, Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022, in Columbus, Ohio. The U.S. won 1-0. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
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United States goalkeeper Matt Turner talks to teammates during the second half of a FIFA World Cup qualifying soccer match against El Salvador, Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022, in Columbus, Ohio. The U.S. won 1-0. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
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United States goalkeeper Matt Turner talks to teammates during the second half of a FIFA World Cup qualifying soccer match against El Salvador, Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022, in Columbus, Ohio. The U.S. won 1-0. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Matt Turner’s first interest in Arsenal was as simple as A-B-C.

“Both of my older sisters, they played for a club called the Pascack Arsenal,” he recalled of the youth team in New Jersey. “And when I was getting into soccer after the 2010 World Cup, it just — when I’m on FIFA, I’m looking at the first team in the Premier League is Arsenal, and I said, ‘Oh, that kind of makes sense.’”

His interest raised by the FIFA video game, Turner read of the Gunners’ history and watched Thierry Henry’s move to Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls from 2010-14.

“You dream,” the 27-year-old American goalkeeper said Thursday. “You don’t really see a clear path of how they’re going to happen, but you just trust the work and trust your dream every single day, and continue to work hard, be self-aware, know what you need to work on, and listen to your coaches around you.”

In an incredible progression from when he was bypassed in the 2016 MLS draft and then gained starting roles on the New England Revolution and U.S. national team, Turner agreed to a deal on Feb. 11 to join Arsenal this summer. He will remain with New England for the first half of the MLS season, which the Revolution open on Feb. 26.

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“This is the first club to make a concrete offer,” Turner said. “I understand that it’s really challenging to get your foot in the door, so it’s really hard to say no to not only the chance to go fulfill a dream, but also to go challenge myself at the highest level and play for one of the biggest, most recognizable brands in the world in Arsenal.”

Turner has supplanted Manchester City’s Zack Steffen as the top U.S. goalkeeper in World Cup qualifying, starting eight of 11 matches. Steffen, the backup to Ederson at his club, has appeared in just one Premier League match and seven overall this season at City. He has missed much of qualifying because of a back injury.

Turner isn’t concerned about not getting playing time in London ahead of Aaron Ramsdale, the current starter. Turner’s arrival could lead to the departure of current backup Bernd Leno.

“When I got my first chance with the national team, it was only as a No. 3,” Turner said. “No one ever really took me seriously, so I’m not going over there just to collect a check and ride off into the sunset. I’m going to push myself, I’m going to push Aaron and continue to help him get better and help myself get better.”

Turner spoke during a news conference wearing the jersey of the New York/New Jersey Gotham of the Women’s Professional Soccer League.

“I’ve got to rep the home state, the home team, promote NWSL any way I can,” he said.

Turner said the basics of the transfer fell into place on Feb. 2, before he played that night for the U.S. in a World Cup qualifier against El Salvador in chilly St. Paul, Minnesota.

“I had heard of rumblings of interest over the past few months, but it always seemed like a longshot,” he said. “And then on the day we were playing El Salvador, it finally went through. It was emotional, it was up and down. Sometimes it was more dead than ever, sometimes it was more alive than ever, but that’s the first time I’ve ever been through something like that, so to have it all come through and then come out and put in a good performance and get three points for the national team, it was a very sort of euphoric day for me in my life and my career.”

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