MLS New England Revolution

Sweeney: Turner’s homework on the pen shows just how far he’s come

On what could have been Revolution supporters’ most fun afternoon in years, goalkeeper Matt Turner reminded them just how far the club has come during his post-match interview with ABC’s Jon Champion and Taylor Twellman.

It was an innocuous mention to the former gaffer, Brad Friedel — himself a prized goalkeeper for the US national team and several Premier League sides — and some words of wisdom he instilled in his protege.

Twellman had mentioned a gaffe between Turner and rookie defender Henry Kessler which led to Orlando City’s lone goal of the afternoon. That made it 2-1 to the Revs, which had scored twice against the run of play.

“You know at some point in the game,” Twellman said, “you’re going have to come up big. You came up big on the penalty. Just how quickly do you have to regroup?”

Turner didn’t waste time in laying out his trump card with flair.

“It has to be immediate. One of my old coaches named Brad Friedel said that all goalkeepers — all good goalkeepers — make mistakes and that what separates the good from the great ones are the ones that are able to bounce back,” Turner said. “Kessler and I talked, we shook it off, and we knew we’re still up to 2-1, so if we kept kept the zero on the board, we’d still win the game. All you can do is move on to the next one and you can’t let those mistakes bleed over so I think we did a really good job of that for the most part, and we picked each other up when when we were down.”

Turner has come incredibly far since a cold night in Philadelphia to start off the 2018 season. That was the season opener, and Friedel had named him the starter.

Think back to that cold, wet Saturday night. You had no idea who Matt Turner was. You expected Brad Knighton or Cody Cropper to be in front of the onion bag. And there were times on that night where he did not look good, even down a man following Antonio Delamea’s bear hug in the 22nd minute.

But the following week, he saved a huge penalty against Colorado, and everyone in Revolution Colony learned what he was about. He continued on that way, and even though the summer swoon hit, most of that — a good portion of that — was not on Turner’s shoulders. He mentioned to me how he continually studied the goalkeepers in the World Cup, the best in the world, and how he approached goalkeeping from then on out.

OK, a couple were on his shoulders, including a WTF moment against Orlando in this building in August 2018.

And when New England started the 2019 season, Turner was, for some strange reason, relegated to third best behind Cropper and Knighton… until Friedel found himself out of a job in May. Since then, that net has been Turner’s to mind, and without a doubt he has minded it well.

On Sunday, Turner provided the biggest save of the Revolution’s season in the 74th minute.

In the build-up, Matt Polster had clattered Darryl Dike in the penalty area from behind, and that forced Alex Chilowicz to point directly to the spot for the second time Sunday. Everyone knew who would take the ball. Everyone knew who would take the pen.

So, too, did Turner, and he knew exactly which way Nani would go

In replays, Turner started leaning toward his right as the Portuguese midfielder approached. He kept going right, and he made the save.

It’s a save that should have the headlines in the Globe and the Herald Monday morning. Not the Patriots’ win over Arizona. A meaningless win by a currently non-playoff team against a meaningful win by a team that’s going to its first conference final in six years? Surely you jest, right?

“It came down to a big moment with the penalty kick and, you know, do my homework. Spend my hours on film like Tim Melia and make the save,” Turner told Champion and Twellman.

It’s a save that has us smiling, and permanently putting the question of who this former third-choice keeper — this year’s Goalkeeper of the Year runner-up — is firmly in the rear view mirror.