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With 11 years separating them, unique personalities and a myriad of objectives accomplished and yet to realize between them both, Colorado goalkeepers Adam Beaudry and Zack Steffen have a common influence in their goal of playing for and returning to the U.S. Men's National Team—the tight-knit "goalkeeper union" of the Rapids led by Chris Sharpe.

A staple of the Rapids organization, Sharpe has guided the first-team goalkeeping squad since 2013, and coached at the Academy level five years prior. His influence and direction within the club is now tasked with the charge of continuing to develop Beaudry, a 17-year-old recent Homegrown signing, and Steffen, a Premier League champion and veteran of the game, in anticipation of representing their country.

While both players are striving for different goals—Beaudry is just in the beginning stages of his professional career and working his way up the ranks of the U.S. youth national team system and Steffen is eager to make his return to the senior team pitch after time away—the pair are poised to make the most of the 2024 season under Sharpe's guidance and find themselves donning the Stars & Stripes this year.

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Beaudry broke onto the international scene in early 2023, and by the year’s end, competed in the U17 FIFA World Cup. In Indonesia he faced a total of 65 shots, 27 of which came from the group stage contest with Burkina Faso. Beaudry won the FIFA Man of the Match honors for his performance in the 2-1 victory and cites it as the international appearance he’s most proud of.

The young ‘keeper has made a total of six appearances with the U17 side, recording two clean sheets in that time since his debut against Trinidad a year ago in the Concacaf U17 Championship tournament.

While Beaudry has proven his ability to get the job done on the pitch, making his mark with the national team comes with its own challenges of simply staying true to yourself in an environment you’re not accustomed to.

“I think the biggest thing for me going through that was just trying to be myself, and because it's really easy to go into that environment and try to be someone else and almost afraid... You're not with that group a lot.”

Aside from Beaudry’s concerns about how he presents himself to his peers and coaches on the national stage, Steffen and Sharpe understand what makes the 17-year-old tick and how it translates into his success on the pitch.

“Wise,” “old soul,” and “intellectual” aren’t usually words to describe someone Beaudry’s age, but it’s evident once you get to know him.

“He’s a quiet kid away from the field. He's a studious kid, a very intelligent young man in school. You can see that because he studies what we do,” said Sharpe. “He’s very methodical in his approach. He's very routine in his approach. He studies himself and others a lot, which I think you can see in the last 12 months, whether that’s in games or training sessions, he has just gone from strength to strength...He takes everything in, swirls it around and takes what is useful and spits out what's not.”

That cerebral approach to the game has its cons, as well. Overthinking has been something Sharpe has admitted trying to eradicate from Beaudry’s methodology, and the arrival of Steffen can make a difference.

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Steffen, with almost a decade of experience on Beaudry, has been put through the paces his younger teammate is going through right now and can provide invaluable insight.

“He's in great position,” Steffen said. “He just needs to be patient, just focus on the day-to-day and what Sharpe wants him to do in the gym, and what he needs to focus on in training, his diet and everything—and he does all that at 17, which is incredible.

“He's very wise beyond his years. He's on the right path, he just has to continue to keep his head down and try to enjoy it as much as he can and stay patient and the games will come and opportunities will come.”

On the flip side, Beaudry knows he can learn a lot from his new teammate.

“For me, Zack coming here was perfect because he's done exactly what I want to do—go to Europe and play for the national team and have that sort of career—so with him coming I’m just trying to soak everything in but also knowing I have a role in trying to push him and he's also pushing me.

“I’m trying to learn everything I can and take the things that I like from his play and putting them into my game and taking time to try to really just enjoy this opportunity I have with him and this team.”

Steffen understands the concept of keeping one’s head down well, putting in the work during his loan spells to Fortuna Dusseldorf and Middlesbrough, fighting for minutes on the Manchester City pitch, and recovering from a knee injury that took him away from the game this past season.

He’s determined to make the minutes on the Colorado pitch count this season and beyond, noting his short-term goal is to return to the national team as the No. 1 goalkeeper in Gregg Berhalter’s squad.

Sharpe has no doubt that this moment in time was the perfect one for Steffen to come on board in Colorado to achieve that goal.

“I called him when I was in Australia at Christmas time when [his deal] was all fast tracking,” the coach said. “Unbelievable conversation—almost identical conversation to the one I had with Tim [Howard] in 2016. And I said, ‘Hey, look, I want you to come here.’ He was humble and willing to keep learning and improving at his craft. That, to me, shows you're going to get a top goalkeeper.

“He's unbelievable. He wants to do videos every single day, he’s sending me videos, still pictures, saying ‘Come on, let's go watch the video.’ Like he wants to be better. And I think the door’s wide open right now to walk straight back in the national team.”

Steffen last saw the USMNT pitch during Concacaf World Cup qualifiers in 2022. Since then, he’s been focused on a mentality that brings him closer to his goal to stand between the posts heading into the next World Cup cycle.

Part of that mentality stems from controlling how he responds to results and setbacks and learning from the inherent loneliness of his position. Him and Beaudry respond similarly to dealing with the mental toll of the job—Steffen sees a therapist and life coach for matters both on the pitch and beyond, Beaudry talks with a sports psychologist, and both rely on familial support systems and their faith.

“As a goalkeeper, you make a mistake, it usually ends up in a goal, whereas a field player can make a mistake and you got other players to back you up,” he said. “It’s years and years of making mistakes and bouncing back and not dwelling on that mistake, especially in the game... So if you can make a mistake, and then bounce back and make a save and play the rest of the game? Well, that shows a lot of character.”

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That character is exactly what Sharpe is ingraining into the “goalkeeper union” at Colorado—nurturing their wellbeing after each result, positive or negative, and taking the experiences and feedback of the players into account.

But that all starts with ensuring each player is cared for in the exact same way, says Sharpe.

Within the club, Sharpe oversees the goalkeeping at every level—the youth club, Academy, Rapids 2 and the first team.

“It doesn't matter if you're eight years old, or you're Zack Steffen at 28, I want to treat all the goalkeepers the same,” he said. "I'm not going to baby you, I'm not going to go to your parents for things, I'm going to treat you like you're the young, mature goalkeeper, that I want you to turn out to be... knowing these guys individually—families, kids, likes, dislikes, food, what they're like in the gym—everything creates that culture and that relationship that you can lean on them when you need to, put your arm around them when you need to, push them when they have to be pushed, to loving them when they have to be loved."

The culture within the Rapids' goalkeeping squad is propelling Beaudry and Steffen closer and closer to their individual goals of returning to and reaching the senior national team.

Steffen’s recollection of the initial discussion between him and Sharpe held a shared truth—that the future together was bright.

“I could just tell by his tone and demeanor that he truly believed in me and believed in himself in the process,” Steffen said. "With hard work and focus and trust in each other and honesty and transparency that we could do a lot of good.”