'I'm comfortable saying it' - USMNT boss Berhalter backs Man City-bound Steffen to thrive in England

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Mike Ehrmann
The coach managed the goalkeeper with the Columbus Crew, and he has little doubt he can make it as a Premier League goalkeeper

After managing the goalkeeper with the Columbus Crew, U.S. national team boss Gregg Berhalter says he has no doubt that Zack Steffen has everything needed to succeed in England.

Steffen recently signed with Manchester City after breaking through with the national team in 2018, earning recognition as U.S. Soccer's Male Player of the Year.

The 23-year-old goalkeeper with remain with the Crew for the first half ot the MLS season before making his move over the summer as he looks to secure a work permit.

When that day does come, though, Berhalter says he has full faith in Steffen's ability to adapt and, eventually, thrive.

"Yes. I’m very comfortable saying that [he’ll succeed in England]," Berhalter told reporters on Tuesday. "He has such a unique skillset for such a young age. He’s a top goalkeeper, very explosive, good with his feet. I think he has a future in the Premier League."

Berhalter originally brought Steffen to the Crew in 2013 as the goalkeeper returned home from Freiburg.

It was a trying period in Germany for Steffen, who cited homesickness as one of the key reasons for a move back home.

Prior to that, Steffen was seen as the brightest goalkeeping prospect in the USMNT pool, with his performances at the 2015 U-20 World Cup earning him rave reviews.

Since joining the Crew, Steffen has rapidly risen through the ranks to become the USMNT's No.1 while also winning MLS Goalkepeer of the Year honours for his efforts in 2018.

Matt Miazga Zack Steffen USA

"I think everyone in their career experiences setbacks. The important thing with Zack is that we had a plan," Berhalter said.

"He understood the plan, he accepted the plan and he worked very hard to execute the plan. He went on loan to the USL in his first six months and he got games. We eventually got him to a spot where he was competing to be the No.1, he won the No.1 spot, and we’ve seen his progression on and off the field.

"I think he’s matured. He’s at a different level than he was before. His poise is exceptional in big moments and he’s improved in every area of his game. I’m confident when I say that he’ll continue to improve and become the goalkeeper that we all expect."

Berhalter, who will now manage Steffen with the national team, cited Steffen's ability to play out of the back as one of his key attributes going forward.

Under Pep Guardiola, goalkeepers are very much expected to play with their feet, an expectation that was also the norm under Berhalter with the Crew.

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"It was a very key thing in playing in our system," he said. "He’s comfortable with it. He knows what’s expected of him. He’s working on it.

"I think with Ederson I think they probably have the best in the league right now, but Zack is good and he’s going to get even better."

Steffen's return to the USMNT could come as part of Berhalter's first camp as the U.S. is set to convene in January ahead of friendlies against Panama and Costa Rica.

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