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Last Call for the Turner Train

Turner’s departure is the last of the Revs major transfers out for 2022, but under the new era of Bruce Arena, likely not the last.

Arsenal Unveil New Signing Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

So Arsenal made it official on Monday, announcing Matt Turner’s transfer to the EPL side from the New England Revolution on a permanent signing.

Originally reported several months back but made official with the opening of the summer transfer windows, Turner’s transfer fee is believed to be around $6 million with add-ons up to $10 million. Turner joins an Arsenal keeping corps which includes England international Aaron Ramsdale and the highly rated German Bernd Leno who could be looking for a move away from the London side.

But we are here to appreciate the multiple levels of absurdity that brought Matt Turner, the New England Revolution, and us the fans to this point. An undrafted rookie free agent out of Fairfield Univ. in the fabled and vaunted Metro Atlantic Conference, to MLS starter and statistically one of the best keepers in league history, to Supporter’s Shield and Gold Cup winner, and finally to Arsenal and the EPL. A meteoric rise from 2018 when Turner was named a surprise starter for the season opener after seemingly being promoted from third string.

This concept was conceived by David Gass and the MLS Extratime podcast crew, who in USMNT history has had a larger and more unexpected rise than Matt Turner? It’s a short list and while the development and talent identification for US Soccer and MLS has made tremendous strides in recent years, there’s always going to be players that slip through the cracks and have a longer or odder path to MLS or an international level career.

But does anyone rival Turner’s rise even outside the USA? The only name I can think of at all, because of how well know his story is, would be Jaime Vardy of Leicester City fame who rose up to the Foxes from non-league to the then Championship side and the fabled 2015-16 EPL title and 26 appearances with England and a spot on their 2018 World Cup side. So Turner’s rise to MLS superstardom and appearing in a World Cup is somewhere around the 5000-1 the bookmakers had Leicester if we believe such numbers.

So that covers the absurd rise of Turner specifically which happens to coincide with an equally absurd rise in which the New England Revolution are a selling club. For those who have been following the team for even the last

If this TransferMarkt list is accurate, the three outgoing sales of Turner, Tajon Buchanan, and Adam Buksa represent the 11th, 12th, and 13th highest outgoing sales respectfully (on base value I think) in MLS history.

And all of those deals have effectively been finalized in the last six months if we count Buchanan’s loan back for the remainder of the 2021 season. For a team that for the first twenty to twenty-five years of existence was notoriously stingy with just about everything, this is a remarkable achievement and perhaps equally as absurd as Turner’s rise.

There is no doubt that New England and Turner’s respective rises are linked, but how much depends on your view of the end of the Brad Friedel era as the former Revs head coach gave Turner his first starting job in 2018.

But the Revs as a whole have opened a new training center in Foxboro and have made the playoffs three times in three years under Bruce Arena counting the 2019 season in which he took over for Friedel. Designated Players Carles Gil and Gustavo Bou were signed along with Buksa, with the Revs breaking their incoming transfer fee for each of those players at the times of their deals.

But whatever good fortune the Revolution received by Turner coming good as an undrafted rookie, Turner deserves infinite credit for the hard work he and his coaches have put into his development as a professional over the last six years. Turner has earned this big move to England and to play in a World Cup and hopefully he gets the opportunity to prove himself in the EPL and on the world stage this winter.

But what makes Turner special for Revs fans is that, he’s a New Englander now. He’s one of us despite the fact that I do not like mentioning his alma mater, my personal MAAC rival, in print (Shoutout Fairfield - Sam).

Revs fans have watched Turner grow as a player for both club and country and now get a chance for one of ours to leave on excellent terms and go on to do better things. In club history, the only other player who can say that is probably Clint Dempsey, as his transfer to Fulham was the last time the club had a successful transfer out. But that was nearly 15 years ago, a time span for which the Revs were largely mediocre at best and Seattle thinks he’s a native Sounder now or that they invented Deuce or something.

Turner switched to playing soccer at a unique time in the United States. The rise of MLS academies over the last decade means that a lot more players are getting games in professional settings and, in theory, fewer players are falling through the cracks in the high school and college ranks. I still think that college/university level soccer has an important role to play in the US but it is no longer the necessity it was like in MLS’ formative years.

But there will always be that one rare story. That player who started playing late or returned from an injury that caused a longer than normal journey to top level professional athletics.

To Matt, thank you for defending the sticks in front of The Fort these past few years. Thank you for leading us onto the bandwagon that we have nicknamed the “Turner Train” and may that train continue to shuttle Revolution players to success in Europe and beyond. May your growing family enjoy your time in London and have many happy and healthy days off the pitch.

But now, your greatest mission begins, and you have to accept it Mr. Turner. No, not beating Dolan’s beloved Spurs, or leading the United States to World Cup, something far bigger.

That’s right, no longer will the standard of the EPL be “Can you do it on a rainy night in Stoke?” Not around here anyway, because we know Matt Turner can do it on a cold Metro Atlantic field in Fairfield, and Lawrenceville, and New Rochelle, and Lewiston.

It’s time to find out who in the EPL can say the same.