Zack Steffen is already feeling at home in the Bundesliga since joining Fortuna Düsseldorf this summer. - © imago images / Horstm¸ller
Zack Steffen is already feeling at home in the Bundesliga since joining Fortuna Düsseldorf this summer. - © imago images / Horstm¸ller

Zack Steffen: "It feels like I've been here for years"


USMNT goalkeeper Zack Steffen became the latest in a long list of American internationals to move to the Bundesliga this summer. The 24-year-old is on a season-long loan with Fortuna Düsseldorf for the club's second campaign in the top flight since promotion in 2018.

In an exclusive interview with Steffen, who is on loan from English Premier League side Manchester City, outlines his desire to be Fortuna's No.1 for the 2019/20 season, life so far in Germany and the club's goals for the year. Zack, tell us something about your first impressions in Düsseldorf?

Zack Steffen: "It's been a great start for myself in Düsseldorf. I have family over here who have come over from the US to help me settle in; into my apartment and really make me feel at home over here. The team has been great. They've welcomed me with open arms like I've been here for years. That’s what it feels like. The coaching staff have been great. They've really tried to incorporate me into the team and try to make me learn the way they want to play. Anything they've seen that they could help me with, they have.” What's new about life here in Düsseldorf?

Steffen: "What’s new? Well, everything is new really! I know I had a stint in Freiburg but Düsseldorf is a much bigger city. The fans’ support has been amazing so far. The guys on the team have been great. The city is beautiful with a lot to do. I'm really excited to start checking it out!" What did you hear about Fortuna before you came here?

Steffen: "I knew that they had a very long history in football and that they came up a few years ago and had a very good year, last year. I watched them play a couple of times last year. They had a very strong year. I heard about their style of play: compact and when they win the ball they like to jump and counter, which seems to be a lot of work for the goalkeepers, which is good for myself!" You've spoken about the Bundesliga being very fast and very technical, but what are you expecting in your role between the posts?

Steffen: "I'm expecting to keep the team in the game. To make the saves I need to make and to do my job. We definitely want to keep the ball and play some football whenever we can but we also want to be smart. I want to keep as many shots out as I can."

Zack Steffen has already impressed in pre-season and looks set to be Fortuna Düsseldorf's No.1 choice goalkeeper to start the 2019/20 season. - imago images / Schiffmann Does the no. 24 have a special meaning. Because you are 24 now?

Steffen: "Not like that. When they asked me what number I wanted to pick, there were some weird numbers like 12, 13, 24 and 31. When I saw 24 I thought of Tim Howard. He was my role model and still is. I just remember watching him as much as I could at Everton and Manchester United (whilst) growing up. I'm 24-years-old coming here so it’s a special number." What are your goals with Fortuna this season, personally and with the team, of course?

Steffen: "Personally, I want to become the number one and stay the number one. I want to play week in and week out. I want to have a strong year. As a team, we obviously want to stay up in the Bundesliga. We know it's going to be a hard year this year, but that's our number one goal. We'll take it one game at a time, one opponent at a time." You said that training with the team makes you better day by day. What are your strengths and what can you improve?

Steffen: "There are so many different aspects to do with goalkeeping. I can improve in every aspect: crossing, distribution, diving, reactions, all that stuff. I just try to focus on trying to get better by focusing on at least one of those aspects each day in training so I can hone in on my skills." It's your second time in Germany. How are you living the dream of being a part of the Bundesliga once again?

Steffen: "This is definitely a different step compared to the one in Freiburg. Now I'm going to be able to play in the Bundesliga which is amazing. It's such a good and strong league. Probably one of the best leagues in the world. I'm just trying to enjoy it as well as playing well (for the team). I'm very excited!" What’s your favourite goalkeeper in the Bundesliga?

Steffen: "My favourite goalkeeper in the Bundesliga. I like Roman Bürki (Borussia Dortmund) a lot. He's very strong, quick and athletic. I like his style of play. He's also good with his feet." What are you dreaming of for the upcoming season?

Steffen: "To play a lot of minutes and have a very strong season with the team whilst also creating a lot of happiness for the city and the fans."

Zack Steffen (l.) will be hoping to find similar success in the Bundesliga to fellow countryman Christian Pulisic (r.), who became a global star during his time with Borussia Dortmund. - imago images / Icon SMI Are you a penalty-saving specialist? We've read some very good statistics.

Steffen: "All odds are against the goalkeepers. I get nervous and anxious in those moments but I usually try to stick to my instincts and my feelings and the way my gut feels in terms of which way the players will go. I usually just go all out on that side." Lots of people in football are superstitious. What about you? Do you have any special, personal rituals? What do they mean to you and how important are they?

Steffen: "I have some personal rituals. I put my left glove and my left cleat on before I put on the right ones on. Every time. They [rituals] are very important. Now, it's simply become a rhythm to what I do. It just feels right and good which lets me get tuned for the game." What do you expect from the opener in Bremen. What do you know about Werder Bremen?

Steffen: "I don’t know too much about Werder Bremen. I know they're a strong side. It'll be a tough game. Any game in the Bundesliga is very hard, especially away. We're going to have to play strong, play smart and play together."