In 2016, Zack Steffen once played against FC Cincinnati in front of 1,062 people. At the time, he was on loan to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds from Columbus Crew SC and FCC were still in the third division.
On Sunday, Steffen will likely be the starting goalkeeper for the U.S. Men’s National Team against Venezuela at Nippert Stadium. It’s the first time the USMNT have played in Cincinnati, and as the goalie can attest, it wouldn’t have happened without FC Cincinnati’s rapid surge from 2016 until present-day MLS.
“The fan support that they have here is amazing,” Steffen said Friday morning after practice. “It’s amazing for the league and it’s great that they’re in the league now and the whole country can see what fan support should be. I wish them nothing but the best.”
Of course, FCC fans feel the same for Steffen, who played his last match for Columbus last week before officially joining Manchester City of the English Premier Leauge. That the keeper went from third-division USL (the league has been in the second tier of the U.S soccer pyramid since 2017) to signing with the EPL champions speaks to his quality, too.
And that’s why Steffen is the U.S. starting No. 1 for the present and future. After all, he’s only 24 years old.
The upcoming 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup, which begins next week, is Steffen’s first international tournament since the 2015 FIFA Under-20 World Cup. Regarding a first major international tournament, the same can be said for Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie. Perhaps that’s what makes the Gold Cup – and this USMNT match in Cincinnati – all the more interesting.
“I’ve had a lot of experiences since the U-20 World Cup, but this is the first major tournament for myself with the senior team,” he said. “I’m just going to take it all in and work hard in training and prepare myself as hard and as best I can for the games and go out and do my best.”