Steffen forced out of March USMNT friendlies with minor knee injury

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John Dorton
The Manchester City signing and reigning MLS goalkeeper of the year is out of the upcoming camp due to a minor knee injury

The March friendlies were supposed to be Gregg Berhalter's first chance to put together a full-strength side, but he'll be forced to make due without his first-choice goalkeeper.

Zack Steffen has been forced out of the upcoming friendlies against Ecuador and Chile due to a minor knee injury picked up in the Columbus Crew's recent 2-1 win against FC Dallas on Saturday. He will be replaced on the USMNT roster by the goalkeeper he faced on Saturday, FC Dallas' Jesse Gonzalez.

Steffen had emerged as the starter for the United States for much of the past year, and started in both USMNT matches earlier in 2019. He was expected to be the starter once again in March, but his absence should now open the door for Club Brugge goalkeeper Ethan Horvath, who was very impressive in the USMNT's loss to Italy last November.

A $10 million signing by Manchester City who will join the English champions this summer, Steffen had enjoyed a strong start to the 2019 MLS season, having posted consecutive shutouts for the 2-0-1 Crew. He was expected to continue his place as the USMNT first-choice goalkeeper under Gregg Berhalter, the USMNT coach who was also Steffen's coach with the Crew for three seasons.

Steffen's technical ability with the ball at his feet, and familiarity with Berhalter's system, has given him an even stronger hold on the starting goalkeeper position, but his absence from the March friendlies does present a good opportunity for Horvath to bolster his own case to start. Horvath has enjoyed a career renaissance, establishing himself as a starter for Club Brugge, garnering experience in European competitions to solidify his standing with the national team after some initial struggles with the Belgian club when he first joined via transfer from Molde in 2017.

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New York City FC goalkeeper Sean Johnson is also on the USMNT squad for the March friendlies, and is a contender for playing time due to his solid start to the MLS season.

Gonzalez rejoins the USMNT after having been part of the squad for team's 1-1 draw with Portugal in Leira, Portugal on November 17, 2017. He has yet to appear for the USMNT after filing a one-time change of association 

Having filed a one-time change of association to represent the United States, Gonzalez was included in the knockout phase roster of the 2017 Gold Cup-winning U.S. side.

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