Zack Steffen, formerly a backup goalkeeper for Manchester City who has 29 United States National Team caps to his name, is returning to the US to join the Colorado Rapids in MLS.
Colorado is revamping itself after finishing last in the MLS Western Conference in 2023. They brought in a new coach in former Manchester United assistant Chris Armas, and now they have a new goalkeeper to reduce the 54 goals they conceded in 34 matches in 2023.
Steffen appears set to replace William Yarbrough between the sticks in Colorado. Yarbrough went down with a torn meniscus injury after 20 matches last season, causing him to miss the rest of the season.
Marko Ilic replaced Yarbrough after the injury, but he ranked below the fifth percentile in key shot-stopping stats like save percentage, goals against, and post-shot expected goals minus goals against. Ilic posted a 60.9 save percentage, a 1.7 crosses stopped percentage, and a 15.4 clean sheet percentage, while Yarbrough has averaged metrics of 73.6, 2.9, and 32.7 in those respective categories over his four MLS seasons.
In signing Steffen, Colorado get a talented goalkeeper who has only gotten consistent opportunities as the No. 1 goalkeeper while loaned out from Manchester City. He played 17 out of 34 league matches for Dusseldorf in the Bundesliga in 2019/20, and he played in 42 of 46 English Championship matches for Middlesbrough in 2022/23.
The 28-year-old Steffen will become a foundational piece for Colorado. In addition to hiring Armas this offseason, the Rapids have drafted highly-rated winger Kimani Stewart-Baynes and signed midfielder Omir Fernandez, who played for Armas at New York Red Bulls, in free agency.
While Steffen is a little on the older side compared to the core of Colorado's squad, he has plenty of prime years ahead of him as he is a goalkeeper, and his age and European pedigree should help the rest of the squad. Armas will see him, Fernandez, Cole Bassett, and Connor Ronan as the foundation of this rebuilding club.
The Colorado Rapids have the joint-longest odds to win the 2024 MLS Cup at +10000 with the season set to begin on February 1.
Steffen began his professional career in Germany with SC Freiburg in early 2015 upon leaving the University of Maryland after his sophomore season.
He spent a year and a half in Freiburg's reserves and then moved back to the States to join the Columbus Crew, where he spent two and a half seasons as the starter before joining Manchester City for an estimated $7 million fee halfway through the 2019 MLS campaign.
Steffen mostly served as City's goalkeeper in cup competitions, making just two Premier League appearances in five years with the club. He started and kept a clean sheet in the 2021 League Cup final win against Tottenham.
The fact Steffen did not get consistent playing time with Manchester City caused US Men's National Team head coach Gregg Berhalter to leave him out of the USMNT squad for the 2022 World Cup, where the Stars and Stripers were eliminated in the round of 16. That disappointment was likely a catalyst for this move, as he will play every week in a competition that the coach respects.