USMNT goalkeeper Zack Steffen is cementing himself as the USA's starter and a standout in the Bundesliga
Playing with Fortuna Dusseldorf, Steffen has made a strong impression in Germany so far
Playing overseas was once, perhaps, a daunting task for Americans. In 2019, if you take a look at some of the top leagues in Europe, you'll find Americans spread out at important clubs making big-time impacts. Whether it is Christian Pulisic at Chelsea, Weston McKennie at Schalke or any of the others, it's almost commonplace now to see Americans lacing them up and thriving in the most competitive region in the world.
One of the latest to make the jump is talented United States men's national team goalkeeper Zack Steffen -- who's expected to start on Friday as the USMNT takes on Mexico in an international friendly at 8:30 p.m. ET, which you can see on fuboTV (Try for free). The former Columbus Crew shot-stopper was signed by Manchester City and loaned out to Bundesliga club Fortuna Dusseldorf this season. The 24-year-old has looked more than sharp, earning rave reviews. He's been the starter at the German club and even had a nine-save performance in a match this season. The German game has been challenging to get used to for Steffen, but he was always up for that task, embracing how demanding it is.
"The pace of the game, the technical ability of the players week in and week out [is different]," Steffen said in an interview with CBS Sports. Definitely the quality of the strikers and the midfield. You can't really take a play off. You've got to be engaged the whole time."
This is actually Steffen's second taste of life in Germany. He signed with SC Freiburg out of the University of Maryland in 2014 but found himself with the Columbus Crew a year later. He's glad to be back, though, and is hoping to continue to prove that he's got what it takes.
German soccer is known for its structure, discipline and intensity. It's a place where kids live, breath and eat the sport, developing an obsession for it. And it's place where professionals go to improve and test themselves against the giants of the sport. Be it Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen or others, night in and night out Steffen is tested like never before. Major League Soccer was great for his career -- it's where he made his name and earned his call up -- and he appreciates the opportunities that the league presented him. But he says the game in Europe is just a different style and key to his progression.
"We have at least one two-a-day [training sessions] a week. Usually two, actually," Steffen said. "There are days where I'm at the facility almost all day long. It's definitely demanding mentally and physically. That's why it is one of the best leagues in the world. It takes a bit of time to get adjusted to that. It sets you up for success."
Steffen admits that he misses life in the United States but loves life in Germany. He may not be able to easily acquire things that he likes -- condiments, mainly. Steffen has found himself longing for blue cheese, ranch and hot sauce since his move to Europe. But he makes it work while carrying with him the memories of Columbus.
"Columbus is considered my second home, so I definitely miss Columbus for many different reasons. I definitely miss the good times I had there and I miss the guys for sure," Steffen said
The former Terrapin is pleased to see the other Americans that are having success in Germany. Striker Josh Sargent scored on Sunday for Werder Bremen and is with Steffen on the U.S. national team. Steffen can already see how these opportunities will pay off for himself and the national team down the road.
"Playing with some of the best players in the world week in and week out, it's very crucial for my career, especially at my age for a goalkeeper," Steffen said. "It's really important that we gets minutes and games against these high-quality players."
Taking advantage of those minutes, in MLS and now in Germany, seem to have cemented him as the No. 1 goalkeeper under Gregg Berhalter, who coached him in Columbus. On Friday, he hopes to step up in a Gold Cup final rematch.
"You want to go out there and beat them, especially on our home soil and especially after the final we had in Chicago," Steffen said. "We have a lot to focus on and a lot to prove."
But others see what he has already proven, both in the states and overseas, and where his ceiling is. It's his cat-like reflexes and top-level agility that caught the eye of a club like Manchester City and those around him.
"I think that [starting in Germany] for him, it's a big opportunity," McKennie told CBS Sports. "Because he is getting minutes in a big league at a club that trusts him enough to start him right away. And he stepped up and took the challenge and didn't shy away from it at all. I think he will continue to improve and continue to grow and eventually one day make a name for himself at Manchester City."
The former MLS manager will become the first coach to manage a team in the Champions League...
Here's a look at who is rising and who is falling
The Reds are 5-0-0 to start the season
The Brazilian heard boos for much of the match
It's a rematch of the Copa del Rey final from May in which Barca lost to Los Che
The Brazilian made quite the impact off the bench for the first-place Reds