Why USMNT goalkeeper Steffen could be key to Man City's quadruple bid

Zack Steffen Pep Guardiola Manchester City GFX
The American goalkeeper will start the FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea on Saturday and likely feature again in the League Cup final next week

There were plenty that questioned Zack Steffen's decision to join Manchester City as their second-choice goalkeeper.

However, over the next eight days, the United States No.1 could play a key role in Pep Guardiola's side claiming half of what would be an unprecedented quadruple.

The Pennsylvanian-born goalkeeper has played in all of City’s domestic cup games and will continue his run in Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea.

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Then, just over a week later, Steffen will be back at Wembley for the Carabao Cup final against Tottenham, attempting to get his hands on the club's first piece of silverware this season.

It’s not easy being a back-up goalkeeper to an undisputed No.1 such as Ederson, so playing in such big matches is just reward for the American's patience and hard work.

Guardiola is certainly in no doubt that Steffen deserves to start against Chelsea, explaining that he has to be fair to each and every member of his stellar squad.

“Maybe tomorrow we are going to win or we are going to lose, but tomorrow if Zack doesn’t play, I’m going to lose the team and it is better to lose a game than to lose the team,” the Catalan told reporters. 

“He played really well in the FA Cup, he’s a keeper from the USA national team and when he plays, he plays at a good level.

“He is a lovely guy, training well and I’m more than delighted to give him the chance.”

City signed Steffen from MLS side Columbus Crew back in December 2018 for an initial $7.5 million (£6m), though the fee could climb to $10m (£7.2m) because of potential add-ons.

Zack Steffen

He had just established himself as his country's first-choice shot-stopper and a return to Europe certainly seemed the right move for an ambitious character who had not seen as much game time as he would have liked after making his senior breakthrough in Germany, with Freiburg.

England was an unsurprising destination too, given fellow American goalkeeping greats Brad Friedel, Tim Howard and Kasey Keller had all previously excelled in the Premier League.

But some thought that the Etihad Stadium was the wrong destination, with Ederson having made the No.1 jersey his own. 

Steffen didn't listen to the naysayers, though, believing he would benefit enormously from moving to Manchester.

“I'm very happy to be here and I think this year is going to be a big growth year for me, if I stay fit and healthy,” he told Goal at the start of the season. “If I work hard, if I do all the right things I think it could be a big step forward for me.”

A move to a mid-table Premier League or European rival may have guaranteed more game time, but would not have exposed him to such a demanding and high-quality environment.

By the end of the month, if everything goes according to plan, Steffen will have been part of the squad for Champions League quarter-final and semi-final games, as well as two big trips to Wembley – with a third to come if City beat Chelsea on Saturday.

He's also proven himself a safe pair of hands whenever asked to step into the starting line-up by keeping five clean sheets in 10 appearances this season.

Zack Steffen

He would have another in his only Premier League appearance – the significant 3-1 victory at Chelsea in January – but for an injury-time consolation goal from Callum Hudson-Odoi.

Shutouts away to Manchester United in the League Cup semi-final and Everton in the last round in tight games have also showcased his quality in pressurised situations.

There has been the odd moment where things could have gone wrong – needlessly picking up an early back pass at Stamford Bridge and conceding at League Two Cheltenham Town in the FA Cup fourth round.

However, the 26-year-old has been largely unruffled – which is impressive given the demands Guardiola puts on his goalkeepers to help start attacks.

“He has the personality, he has composure,” the City boss said. “Nobody in the world is like Eddie with the quality of his feet. But I don’t want Zack to do what Eddie does.

"He has to do what he can, try to make saves, concede as few chances as possible and play a good game. We trust him a lot to do that, and that’s why he’s here.”

Now comes the moment when Steffen’s qualities will be seriously tested, though.

He admitted the squad have been talking about the possibility of winning all four trophies and that City have maintained their challenge until the middle of April is remarkable in itself – only Chelsea, in 2007, and United two years later, have ever lasted longer.

In addition, the goal now is to have two trophies in the bag by the end of next week and, after biding his time, Steffen is now deservedly in position to have major say in their quadruple bid.