Zack’s Historic Double Damage

Columbus Crew fans have become accustomed to watching goalkeeper Zack Steffen do amazing things, especially in the postseason when the spotlight shines brightest. The 23-year-old is the reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, a regular call-up the U.S. Men’s National Team, and will be heading to Manchester City of the English Premier League this summer. Steffen does lots of things well, including things that have never been done before.

In the 59th minute, Steffen did something that he has done before. He stymied the opposition’s penalty kick taker with a diving save. He did it repeatedly to Atlanta in the 2017 playoffs and to D.C. United in the 2018 playoffs, and this past Saturday, he did it to New England’s Diego Fagundez:

 

 

 

Then, in the 96th minute, Steffen played a long ball to Hector Jimenez, who brilliantly brought the ball down on his thigh and played a perfect pass to a streaking Gyasi Zardes, who scored his second goal of the match to clinch a 2-0 Crew victory:

 

 

Steffen had done that before too. On June 24, 2017, he assisted on a Federico Higuain goal in a 4-1 win against Montreal.

So a PK save? Been there and done that. An assist? Also been there and also done that. But a PK save and an assist in the same game? That’s a new one, and not just for Zack. And not even just for the Crew.

Elias Sports Bureau has confirmed that Steffen is the first goalkeeper in MLS history to save a PK and dish out an assist in a single match.

(Note: In the close-but-no-cigar department, per Elias, Adin Brown of the Colorado Rapids had an assist and faced an unsuccessful penalty in a 2-1 win at Chicago on May 3, 2000. He did not save the penalty however. It went wide of the goal.)

In light of this historic feat, I thought I would check in with teammate Josh Williams, a ten-year MLS veteran who has seen a lot of things in his career. What better teammate to put Zack’s historic afternoon in perspective? I mean, a PK save, an assist, a clean sheet, a victory…

“My first reaction (after the game) was complete disappointment that he didn’t score,” Williams said. “Huge letdown in my opinion. But nothing surprises me with him anymore. He’s the definition of a complete goalkeeper. He adds a sense of confidence to our whole team. You play with a sense of freedom knowing that you have such an imposing figure behind you. Although he ruined what could have been a great day by not completing the goalkeeper ‘cycle’ (with a goal), hats off to him for a pretty impressive record.”

Yes, true, while Steffen set the Crew club record for goalkeeper assists with the second helper of his Black & Gold career, William Hesmer’s goalkeeper goal scoring record appears to be safe for now. Even Steffen himself says so.

“While scoring a goal would be awesome, I have other goals I’m trying to achieve first,” he said.

In addition to sucking the life out of MLS penalty kick takers and winning games for Columbus, his international career with the United States is solidly underway, as is a summer transfer a world-famous club in one of the biggest leagues on the planet. There are undoubtedly a great many goals for Zack Steffen to achieve in the next decade and a half, well beyond the considerable amount that he’s already accomplished.

“Zack’s such a beast,” Williams said. “Never seen anything like him.”

But as Josh, the Crew, and the city of Columbus can attest, seeing is believing.

A game in which he had a PK save and an assist was merely the most recent occasion where seeing Zack Steffen in action has meant believing the unbelievable.

 

*****

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Twitter: @stevesirk
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