Columbus Crew: Zack Steffen deserves MLS Goalkeeper of Year award

Columbus Crew goalkeeper Zack Steffen has been stellar in goal since he stepped into the role in 2017. His heroics this season have earned him the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award.

Zack Steffen arrived in Columbus as a largely unknown prospect to most fans in July of 2016. At the time, the starting Columbus Crew SC goalkeeper was Steve Clark. Opportunities looked bleak. But Steffen, as a young and promising prospect, was slated to be the eventual successor for Clark.

After Clark’s option was declined by the club following the 2016 season, the reigns were handed over to Steffen. Reflecting now, it was a wise decision.

Steffen has not looked back since taking over in goal for the black and yellow. The young goalkeeper had a career year in 2017 with 98 saves in 34 appearances. His performance in penalty kicks against Atlanta United in the Eastern Conference semifinals cemented his position among one of the hottest prospects in for the USMNT, which he has built upon ever since.

In 2018, Steffen followed up his 2017 campaign with another stellar season. He made his senior debut for the USMNT this year, making six appearances in total, with a clean sheet against Mexico to his name. For Columbus, Steffen has been a rock in between the posts making 66 saves in 29 appearances. His heroics helped the club secure a spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs with only 45 goals conceded all season.

And then, in the knockout round, Steffen bounced back from an uncharacteristic mistake for D.C. United’s first goal. In penalty kicks, he stopped shots from Wayne Rooney and Luciano Acosta to send Columbus to the Eastern Conference semi-finals for a second straight year. He compounded that impressive performance in the first leg versus the New York Red Bulls at the weekend. Steffen came up huge with a stoppage-time save from a flicked Bradley Wright-Phillips header to secure a clean sheet and 1-0 win for Crew SC.

He will appear between the sticks once again this Sunday as Columbus Crew look to seal their spot in the Eastern Conference finals for the second straight year. He will then join the national team in Europe for the England and Italy matches. We will have to see if he can continue his heroics for both club and country.

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But, for now, his work is being rewarded. Steffen was named the MLS 2018 Goalkeeper of the Year this week. It is a most deserved recognition, highlighting his consistent brilliance throughout the regular season and in the playoffs. Steffen had a goals-against-average of 1.28, a save percentage of 64.1%, led a defense that conceded only 45 goals across the season, the joint-sixth best tally in MLS, and tallied ten clean sheets, despite only playing 29 games. He also went 525 consecutive minutes without conceding a goal at one point, a run indicative of his superlative form.

Steffen is deserving of this award. His performances have been excellent and he has been a key reason for the Crew’s success. Congratulations, Zack Steffen.