This past Saturday, the Union took on The Crew in a game that lacked scoring chances. The Crew ended up winning 1-0 on a goal from Justin Meram in which his effort took a deflection off of Union center-back Joshua Yaro. The Union did not have a shot on target and struggled to get too many offensive chances, despite having an almost even split of possession with the Union having 49.9%. The Philly boys were without many of their usual starters as they were out with injury. They take on the Crew again Wednesday, this time in Philadelphia at Talen Energy Stadium.
Not only do the Union have another important match against the Crew again on Wednesday, but the game is also a homecoming for the Crew’s starting goalkeeper Zack Steffen. In his youth career, Steffen was a rising talent in the Philadelphia Union’s youth program, as well as playing for West Chester United and FC Delco.
Before college, he had been a part of the US national team system since U14, and became a regular in the U18 side. He also was regularly called up to the U20 men’s team. An All-American in 2012, and dubbed the #1 goalkeeper in the nation by topdrawersoccer.com; safe to say that Zack had a very impressive resume heading into collegiate level soccer.
The young starlet went on to play keeper for the Maryland Terrapins in college. As a freshman and sophomore at Maryland, Zack played every minute in goal for the Terrapins. As a freshman, he took Maryland to a NCAA championship where he was named the NCAA Championship Most Valuable Defensive Player. As a sophomore, he was given the Big-Ten tournament most valuable defensive player, which only adds to his list of feats. After his sophomore year, Steffen decided to take his talents to Europe where he joined German side SC Freiburg.
Freiburg was a challenging time for Zack as he struggled to adapt and solidify a role in their squad. Zack found himself as the third choice keeper for Freiburg’s first team. In 2016, Steffen decided to come back to the States, where he joined the Columbus Crew.
He was soon after loaned out to USL side Pittsburgh Riverhounds. I had the chance to speak with Steffen, and he said that his time with the Riverhounds was a good experience because it gave him game experience, and kept him focused and game ready. After honing his game with the Riverhounds, Steffen returned to the Crew where he became the starting keeper for their 2017 MLS season.
It has been a solid season for Steffen in goal for the Crew, and when asked about how he has grown as a player this season, he states that “throughout the season I have become more confident in myself and my abilities on the field”, although “there is a lot of room to grow in my game”. Steffen stays humble and wants to continue to improve and better his game. When asked about this season and how its gone, he said it has “gone well” and that he has “enjoyed his time playing”. Steffen also said upon his homecoming that he still expects to get booed by the fans and Sons of Ben despite having been a part of the Union youth system and growing up in the Philadelphia area. The game should be another close-knit game as both teams are fighting for crucial points that they need to make a playoff push.