Matt Turner’s 29th birthday was one to remember as he captained the USA for the first time and saved a penalty during their Concacaf Gold Cup opener against Jamaica.
The two sides played out a 1-1 draw in the opening game of the tournament in Chicago as the reigning champions were held on home turf by a side many feel are also contenders for the crown.
The US found themselves a goal behind on 13 minutes when Damion Lowe headed the Reggae Boyz in front, and things looked to be getting worse for the States when they conceded a penalty on 27 minutes.
However, Matt guessed the right way to keep Aston Villa’s Leon Bailey from doubling the advantage and keep his side in the game. That was his second penalty save at international level, with the first coming on his debut against Trinidad and Tobago back in 2021.
It would prove crucial as after dominating proceedings, the hosts finally found a leveller when Brandon Vazquez tucked home three minutes from time to ensure they avoided defeat in their opener.
Matt’s night got even better as he was awarded the man of the match award for his heroics, and afterwards interim US coach BJ Callaghan said: “We gave him the captain's armband. I think that's a great starting point for us, to see how valuable he is to the group.
“He's a player that came to us and wanted to play both tournaments. His commitment to this team, the commitment to the craft – and then I always say big players make big plays. Matt made a big play there where I think it also shifted the momentum a little bit with that. So those are what we expect.
"That was his moment to step up, and it's the same thing we preach to all of the guys, that when your number is called, you're going to be expected to step up.”
Matt's side now head to St Louis to play St Kitts and Nevis on Wednesday, before completing the group stage with a meeting with Trinidad and Tobago the following Sunday.
He is the only Arsenal representative in the Gold Cup squad, after Folarin Balogun and Auston Trusty weren't selected after playing in the recent Concacaf Nations League success.
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