USA international goalkeeper Zack Steffen is back in Germany for a second bite at the Bundesliga cherry - this time with Fortuna Düsseldorf. A heavy bout of homesickness cut short his previous stint at Freiburg, but with American midfielder Alfredo Morales already on the Fortuna books and US teammate Weston McKennie a stone's throw away at Schalke, everything is in place for the Manchester City loanee to make a big splash on the other side of the Atlantic.
bundesliga.com profiles the reigning US Soccer Male Player of the Year...
Club: Fortuna Düsseldorf (on loan from Manchester City)
Country: USA (15 senior international caps)
After his youth career with local outfit FC Delco came to an end, Pennsylvania-born Steffen had the chance to go pro at high-school level, but instead opted to join collegiate outfit Maryland, where he spent two years and was named the 2013 College Cup’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player. In an effort to boost his chances of playing for the USA at the 2015 FIFA U20 World Cup, he signed with Bundesliga side Freiburg. The move paid off, even if first-team football in Germany wasn't forthcoming. Steffen started in qualifying and at the World Cup in New Zealand, saving a penalty in the 1-0 win against Colombia in the last 16 and keeping out two further spot-kicks in the shootout loss to eventual champions Serbia in the quarter-finals.
After 18 months in Germany's sunniest city and 14 appearances for the Freiburg reserves, Steffen returned to his homeland with the Columbus Crew. He spent his first year on loan at Pittsburgh Riverhounds in the USL Championship, before becoming the Crew's first-choice goalkeeper in 2017. The 6'3" stopper made a total of 84 appearances for Columbus, recording 26 clean sheets and claiming the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year and the US Soccer Male Player of the Year award in 2018. He made his senior US debut in a friendly against Bosnia and Herzegoniva in January 2018, and was named Man of the Match after pulling off an string of fine saves in the 1-1 friendly draw against world champions France six months later. The 15-time US international kept four clean sheets at the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup, where the Stars and Stripes lost to Mexico in the final.
Plays a bit like: Tim Howard
Steffen says he used to spend hours studying video footage of former USA international Tim Howard - and it shows. Not only is he similar in size and stature to the most capped goalkeeper in US men's national team history, but he's acquired the self-same positioning and shot-stopping skills that took 'T-Ho' to the very top of the game.
Did you know?
When Steffen started out as a kid, he played as a defender. It was only when his team's first-choice custodian couldn't make it to a game that the 10-year-old Steffen put on a pair of keeper gloves for the first time. He has been between the posts ever since. "We talk about that twist of fate very often," recalled mum, Stefanie.
What they're saying
"Zack is a talented goalkeeper with great potential and someone who has performed on the biggest stages for the USA youth teams." - USA coach Gregg Berhalter
"Zack is going to have a long and prosperous soccer career and we feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to help Zack in his growth both as a player and as a person." - Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski
"He even had his own cheering section for some of his home games from some of his friends from high school. I think that speaks to the charisma Zack had. There was just something special about him." - FC Delco coach Alan Mezger