The MLS All-Star Fan XI was announced on Monday and to the surprise of no one, Atlanta United led the way with six picks. These first selections, which are made via a public vote, will be supplemented by 13 more.
Although the New England Revolution have gotten solid performances from Cristian Penilla, Diego Fagundez, and Teal Bunbury, it’s goalkeeper Matt Turner that most deserves to play against Juventus.
Coming into the season, very few knew Turner’s name. In fact, the Fairfield product was probably most recognized as the guy who made a gaffe that was featured on ESPN. This highlight is a thing of the past, however, as Turner is now getting a lot of positive attention.
Consider this, USMNT legend Brad Friedel said, “There’s not too many American goalkeepers that are better than [Turner] anywhere in the world.” Sure, these words are coming from his coach, but people shouldn’t ignore the fact that Friedel thinks Turner could one day suit up for the US. Juan Agudelo feels the same, saying, “People might think I’m getting ahead of myself, but to me he’s a national team player.”
Outsiders have taken notice of Turner as well with Matt Doyle saying he’s a real candidate for Goalkeeper of the Year. Meanwhile, Bobby Warshaw says that Turner has a chance at being an MLS All-Star.
In the interest of full disclosure, Warshaw does have SKC’s Tim Melia as his top pick to join Brad Guzan at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (as well as Columbus’ Zack Steffen as a competitor to Turner). Melia would be a fine choice, especially since his 75.7% save percentage is higher than Turner’s 70.5%. That said, Turner’s importance to the Revs shouldn’t be overlooked.
The Revs backline has been in a constant state of flux, which makes Turner’s presence between the sticks all the more important. Regardless of who is in front of him (or what type of formation is used), Turner has stepped up week-after-week.
Compare this to Melia, who has regularly had Matt Besler (15 starts), Ike Opara (15 starts), and Graham Zusi (16 starts) protecting his goal. It’s only the left back position that has seen some changes. Meanwhile, the Revs have deployed Jalil Anibaba, Antonio Delamea, Claude Dielna, Gabriel Somi, Andrew Farrell, and Chris Tierney at various spots throughout the season.
Despite this instability, Turner has proven to be an elite game-changer. He has made 55 saves, which is the fifth most in MLS. Of the goalkeepers above him, only Andre Blake (57) backstops a team that’s currently in a playoff position. Even then, the Revs occupy the fifth spot in the East while the Union have the sixth. Turner has been called on time and time again to bailout a weak backline that likes to play high.
I’m not delirious enough to say that Turner being left out of the All-Star Game would lead to riots. Instead, I’m here to make the case for a rising star. Often times, MLS accolades go to big names or long-time contributors. Melia himself was a victim of this last year when Stefan Frei and Tim Howard (remember that name?) were picked to be All-Stars over him. This is an unfortunate trend that should be reversed.
I’m totally fine with Melia earning the right to play against Juventus, but I also feel that the game could serve as a well-deserved spotlight for Turner. In the end, it’s going to come down to how Tata Martino wants to build his roster. Will he go with a deserving veteran (which would likely be Melia) or a talented youngster (which could even mean Steffen)? Or perhaps the Argentinian will go with a more surprising pick (please not Howard). Regardless of what happens, I fully believe that Turner is having a All-Star caliber season.