Zack Steffen - U20 CONCACAF WCQ

Because we're going to get so many games, here is a compilation of any notable saves or goals that included the U20 goalkeepers. It's not to pick on Mr. Steffen but we don't have a ton of American goalkeeping at the moment so he's one of the few we have to scrutinize.

Game 6 - El Salvador - 01.24.15

Games 3, 4, 5 were skipped. The 8-0 win against Aruba, which featured Ethan Horvath's lone start for the tournament, the 2-0 win over Jamaica, and the 1-0 win against Trinidad and Tobago didn't exactly have a ton of goalkeeping highlights so we're jumping ahead here. Feel free to watch the highlights yourself though.

It's the last game; winner goes to the World Cup. The game has been pretty calm on Steffen's side, who is on the tail end of a standout defensive tournament. The US has only given up two goals in the six game stretch. However, a mildly questionable penalty is given to El Salvador and threatens the clean sheet. Steffen slowly steps up to the line in a manner that if he were to get scored on, you'd yell at him for being too passive.

You can see Steffen's reaction at the end. Hardly a celebration. Even walking up to the block the kick was so calm. He hops up with a "Yeah, I guess that was good" response. Genuinely one of the coolest USMNT moments as far as being truly cool goes.

The game was 1-0 and finished 2-0, pushing the US onwards to New Zealand 2015. But if this shot converts, which is actually taken very well, it's no pansy shot, it's a 1-1 game with 40 minutes to find a winner. Instead, Steffen casually sends the US to the World Cup.


Game 2 - Panama - 01.11.15

At first glance it looks nothing more than a tight 1v1 encounter that sometimes goalkeepers win and sometimes they don't. But we're always striving for improvement here at ES so let's see if Steffen could have done anything better.

  1. Steffen rushes forward on the chip. Good call. If there's a heavy touch, he wants to be ready to pounce.
  2. Panama's Carlos Small displays a gaudy wind up and Steffen gets set but notice the hands! He does not have them palm-open to block but merely in the area to react. His stance is very wide as well which leaves the five-hole open and makes collapsing either side to make a save with his hands much harder.
  3. Ball has just made contact and Steffen shows his cards. He flinches his body in, pulling his hands closer to his body and leans back as if he was sitting in a chair. He has now penciled his shape, limiting his reach.
  4. Steffen's left knee raises along with his left hand, both poor moves. The kick save isn't an option because the ball is too far from his foot (as proven by the ball going in the goal) and Steffen misjudges how high the ball with bounce.
  5. The ball slips under Steffen's left hand after it flinches in then guesses too high. The attempted kick save is unsuccessful.

The reason the play is tricky is because of how close the shooter is and the bounce but If he gets shortens his stance and gets in his hands into play he'd be up for a very capable save of the tournament award.



Game 1 - Guatemala - 01.09.15

A great strike, no question about it. But could Steffen made the save? Here are seven shots of the play to analyze his movement. Special thanks to whoever was the camera man providing the great angle on the play.

  1. The ball has been headed out from a out swinging corner and falls to Andy Ruiz. The eventual shot goes in under the crossbar right above Ruiz's head in the picture, above the right side of the S in the Scotiabank advertisement in the background. Steffen has some ground to cover, around six feet with his right hand. He is already off to a bad start with his footing, which we'll see how that affects his dive.
  2. Ball has just been struck and notice how Steffen's stance has not only gotten wider but uneven. His right foot is higher off the ground and his legs are almost completely extended, with little bend in his knees.
  3. The ball is under the "CONCACAF U-20 CHAMPIONSHIP" label. Steffen's foot has touched the ground once in between the second and third picture but because all his weight is on his left foot, he can't move laterally. So he stutter steps.
  4. He has now transferred his weight to his right foot. The ball is over halfway to the goal but his feet are not any closer to the ball than they originally were.  At this point, he has picked up his right foot three times since the shot has been taken. (Re-watch the gif above to see his tapping foot.)
  5. What could have been a fingertip save is now a fingernail miss. Steffen is trying to save the ball with both hands, likely due to the ball's dipping motion. If he had just gone with his right hand he may have had a better play on the ball. Hard to say.
  6. Steffen has jumped vertically about six inches on the play. Look at the height of his right leg's sock in the fifth and sixth picture. His left hand has crossed over his right, like a wide receiver closing the gap between his hands after missing the pass.
  7. An almost scary moment. Steffen ends up sliding his leg out of the way but he comes close to landing awkwardly on his leg. Further proof that Steffen's explosion from his right leg wasn't 100%. If it was, his leg would be tucked behind his dive inside of sticking out in front of his body.

It's a memorable goal for Guatemala. Clearly a tough one to save. But Steffen doesn't help himself on the play as much as he could have. His stance kills his dive, almost getting him hurt in the end, and his hands aren't completely sorted out.