The goalkeeper position is by far the most ungrateful in soccer. While strikers can miss a handful of opportunities for an entire match and still have their names sung by the fans if they manage to score the winning goal, for those between the posts, one mistake is enough for them to be tagged as villains.
When playing under Columbus Crew SC’s system, goalkeepers are even more exposed to the risk of a flaw as oftentimes they are put under pressure with the ball at their feet when the team is trying to build plays out of the back.
Black & Gold fans are not unfamiliar to those kinds of mistakes. Just mention Steve Clark and the 2015 MLS Cup Final and the subject will come up. But it happened again on Saturday against the Chicago Fire as Zack Steffen turned the ball over in a dangerous spot and Nemanja Nikolic scored the game-winning goal on Crew SC’s 1-0 defeat.
Mistakes like that tend to take a while to be forgotten, but that was not the case with Steffen, at least considering his post-match comments. The 23-year-old goalkeeper showed maturity to accept the mistake and move on as fast as possible.
“It’s disappointing,” Steffen admitted. “We wanted to get the three points, especially against Chicago. I don’t think we started out too hot. And then I give the ball away and they score and they punished us. That’s the style we want to play and it’s risky. You hope that it doesn’t happen but mistakes happen, we are human and that’s life. We have to get on from it and learn from it.”
The goalkeeper’s words were echoed by many in Crew SC’s locker room after the match. To head coach Gregg Berhalter, the unexpected mistake won’t have big repercussion within the team.
“I’m not worried about that,” Berhalter said. “Zack makes that pass in his sleep. He always makes that and I think he will make it again another 100 times this season. We aren’t worried about it. I think Zack is a quality goalkeeper and things like that happen.”
The goalkeeper also got encouraging words coming from team’s captain Wil Trapp. A long-time standout in the team’s system, the midfielder, who was involved in the play, knows that mistakes will happen.
However, they won’t be enough to reduce the team’s confidence in Steffen, who was one of most important players on Crew SC in 2017 and was considered by many one of the best goalkeepers in MLS.
“They were baiting that pass and we take it with a grain of salt because that’s what we do,” he commented. “We don’t blame Zack for it, we don’t blame anybody for it. It’s just the nature of our style of play. Sometimes you’re going to take some losses. He is a fantastic goalkeeper and it doesn’t change anything. It just happens and we have to move on.”
For center back Josh Williams, who got his first start of the season, what happened in Bridgeview was collateral of Crew SC’s system and something that shouldn’t stay on anyone’s minds for much longer.
To the veteran, it’s time to move on and prepare for the next battles.
“You live by the sword, you die by the sword, you know,” he added. “Do we not trust Zack as much? Absolutely not. When something like that happens, you just want to get him a touch, get it out of your head, man. So no one really cared about that. You’re going to have that throughout the year.”