On Saturday, Zack Steffen walked off the MAPFRE Stadium field for the final time as a Columbus Crew SC player following the 2-2 draw with New York City FC. The goalkeeper is set to complete a Major League Soccer record transfer to English Premier League champions Manchester City when the transfer window opens in July.
But it won’t be in Manchester, or even England, where Steffen will play his soccer next season. The goalkeeper will go on loan to German Bundesliga side Fortuna Dusseldorf. This news was first reported by The Athletic’s Paul Tenorio and confirmed by Massive Report.
According to Tenorio, officials from Dusseldorf are flying to Washington D.C., where Steffen is currently training with the U.S. Men’s National Team ahead of Wednesday’s friendly against Jamaica, this week to finalize the loan deal. Although Fortuna returns last year’s starting goalkeeper, Michael Rensing, Steffen is expected to compete to be the starter in Germany sources indicated to Massive Report.
For Steffen, this will be a return of sorts to where his professional career began. Following two years as the starting goalkeeper at the University of Maryland, Steffen signed with German side SC Freiburg. Although he never made an appearance for the first team, Steffen spent a year and a half in Germany before electing to return to the United States and signing with the Crew in July of 2016.
After finishing out his first year in Columbus on loan to USL Championship side Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Steffen became the Black & Gold’s starting goalkeeper in 2017, winning the job over Brad Stuver. Steffen made a total of 84 appearances for the Crew, recording 26 shutouts and was named both the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year and the U.S. Soccer Male Player of the Year in 2018. Steffen helped Columbus reach the MLS Cup playoffs in each of his two full seasons as a starter, including a trip to the Eastern Conference Final in 2017.
While Manchester City returns starting goalkeeper Ederson, who helped the team win the domestic treble this past season, the need for a loan is not due to the depth at the position at the club. Despite his success with the Crew, Steffen is currently unable to get a work permit in the United Kingdom, largely due to the lack of international caps. According to the current rules, Steffen must have played in 60% of the United States’ senior international matches over the previous two years to play in England or City would have to have an appeal approved.
The goalkeeper has played eight times for the U.S. Men’s National Team since making his debut in January of 2018 but has only played in friendly matches. Steffen is expected to be the starting goalkeeper for the U.S. in the upcoming Gold Cup. These competitive international matches will help Steffen’s case to receive a U.K. work permit.
Fortuna finished the 2018-19 season in 10th place in the Bundesliga on 44 points after winning promotion from 2. Bundesliga the year prior. Steffen will join fellow American international Alfredo Morales, who joined Fortuna ahead of last season.