When Richmond Kickers coach Leigh Cowlishaw first saw New England Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner, a few things immediately stood out.
Turner, he said, had athleticism, good movement in the box, and an infectious energy.
”He’s the real deal,” he said.
But what Cowlishaw really liked about him is he was eager to get game experience after being loaned out to the United Soccer League Kickers in the second division from the top flight Revolution.
Rather than being disappointed about being away from the big league club, he had a good attitude about the situation.
”He was really excited to have an opportunity. That’s not always the case when you get someone on loan,” Cowlishaw said said.
Even more than outfield players, Cowlishaw said, goalkeepers need game experience to develop. They need game time to hone their decision making. There are plenty of athletic keepers, but decision making is where the best stand out.
”For top goalkeepers, its all about decision making. Decisions off the line, decisions with the feet. That takes a long time to develop and comes late with goalkeepers,” he said.
But game time is tough to come by for an inexperienced keeper because only one keeper plays at a time and the best keepers often keep playing until they approach 40-years old.
That doesn’t leave a lot of opportunity for young keepers and is where going out on loan can help.
Cowlishaw said USL is playing a larger role in developing talent for MLS and it is a good place for young players to get experience in a professional atmosphere.
”We play in front of 5,000 to 6,000 people a night. It’s a good platform to enhance your talent,” he said.
Turner spent parts of 2016 and 2017 with the Kickers after signing with the Revolution as an undrafted player out of Fairfield University.
In 2016, the Kickers had an emergency need for a keeper and their Major League Soccer affliate DC United had none to loan. Richmond was able to get Turner in a pinch on temporary loans. He returned last year and started 20 games.
Cowlishaw said the biggest challenge for the 6’3” Turner while at Richmond was getting to know his teammates and learning how to work with them. Turner would often fly down to Richmond for the weekend games while training with the Revolution during the week.
That did not allow the chemistry to develop as quickly.
”There was a lot of in and out, especially his first year,” Cowlishaw said.
It looks like the days of in and out are over for Turner.
In a surprise move, Revolution coach Brad Friedel—a former international goalkeeper—tapped Turner to be the first choice keeper over the more experienced Brad Knighton and Cody Cropper.
Turner lost his his start 2-0 to Philadelphia, but came back to win the Revolution home opener against Colorado, 2-1.
Cowlishaw said he is excited to watch Turner’s further development—from a distance this time.