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Wise beyond his years, Zack Steffen is a stud between the posts for Columbus Crew SC

The 22-year-old goalkeeper became a key piece for the Black & Gold in his first full-year with the club.

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at Orlando City SC Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

On the way to the 2017 MLS Cup playoffs, Columbus Crew SC has used a lot of new faces in its lineup compared to the prior year’s team. However, it looks like one of the new starters has been there forever as goalkeeper Zack Steffen quickly became a staple between the posts and one of the key players in the Black & Gold’s campaign.

Signed by the club in July 2016 after playing in Germany for two and half seasons, Steffen had to wait a year to see MLS action for the first time. But he made up for that rather quickly.

The 22-year-old shot stopper leads Crew SC in usage this season, the only player on the roster to be on the field in each of the season’s 2,880 minutes so far.

Steffen also amassed some impressive numbers in his first full year with Crew SC. The Pennsylvania-native recorded eight clean sheets and helped the team to earn 15 wins, a record for a first-year goalkeeper playing for the Black & Gold. He also ranks fifth in saves in the league, with 91.

“I didn't really know how the season would go,” Steffen admitted after the 2-0 win over the D.C. United last Saturday. “I was kind of just focusing on training and working with Pat (Onstad) and the guys in front of me and just taking it day-by-day and game-by-game and getting better each day and I'm happy with how the season has gone, but we're not done.”

One of the most impressive features of the former U.S. under-18, under-20 and under-23 keeper is his calm and confidence even when playing under pressure.

Steffen is also a key piece in the team’s defensive system, organizing the backline and communicating with the defenders during matches and training sessions.

“He's a stud back there,” center back Josh Williams added. “He's wise beyond his years at times. He's confident out of the back. We know we can give him the ball under any situation and he'll make the right play.

But like anyone else in the team we keep everyone humble and working hard. What he’s done is unbelievable for a first-year guy. But we set the expectations high for him and he does as well, he’s his toughest critic. He’s been a rock back there, but we still have a long way to go”.

Steffen was not the only option head coach Gregg Berhalter had after the departure of long-time starter Steve Clark. But he impressed during the preseason and solidified his spot over Brad Stuver and rookie Logan Ketterer.

With the regular season nearing its end, Berhalter could not be more pleased about the results of his choice in goal.

“I think Zack is steady, Zack’s a steady influence on our group,” he remarked. “For such a young age, he does handle pressure very well. He doesn’t get flustered, he hangs in there and he makes the big save when you need it, so I think that Zack’s been good this year.”

If a good team starts with a good goalkeeper, Crew SC is definitely headed to the right direction with Zack Steffen.