New England

NJ nurse receives special mask made from US Soccer vintage jersey


After a long day at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Michelle Turner had been complaining to her younger brother, Matt, about the face mask she had to wear all day. The skin behind her ears was irritated by the elastic bands.

Matt Turner asked a cryptic question: “If you were going to buy a mask, would it be white or blue?”

Michelle Turner was confused, but she said, “I guess, blue?” 

When an extra package arrived at her Park Ridge apartment door a few days later amid things she’d ordered, Turner didn’t think much of it. She opened the box and found a letter from the U.S. Soccer Federation. Underneath was a white mask with navy stripes and a large “W,” with elastics that wrap around the head instead of the ears.

Michelle Turner, a clinical nurse manager at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan, received a mask made out of an old U.S. Soccer jersey.

Michelle Turner, a clinical nurse manager at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan, received a mask made out of an old U.S. Soccer jersey. (Photo: Courtesy of Michelle Turner)

Turner was still confused, until she found a note from her brother, the New England Revolution goalkeeper, tucked inside the mask.

Michelle Turner, a clinical nurse manager in the David H. Koch Center for ambulatory care, had received a unique gift. The USSF has been donating masks to front-line workers with connections to the game.

Her brother “always has something up his sleeve,” said Turner, 27, who wears the mask on her commute before switching to a disposable N95 in the hospital. “I didn’t know he was doing any of this, or that this was even a thing. … It’s really, really cool to have a piece of history with me now.”

‘We know wearing masks is critical’

The mask initiative grew out of a project to declutter the basement of Soccer House, the 147-year-old Chicago mansions where the USSF is based. Many of the old jerseys were returned to the players who wore them.

But others, about 100 vintage uniform tops, have been turned into unique masks by Chicago teacher-trainer Melizabeth Santos. The USSF plans to donate about 500 fabric full-face masks or covers for N95 masks.

Current United States men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter, Hall of Fame striker Abby Wambach, all-time appearance leader Cobi Jones and three-time Olympic gold medalist Heather O’Reilly are among the players whose jerseys have been used. Each package includes a note from USSF chief medical officer George Chiampas, an emergency room doctor at Northwestern.

Turner’s mask is part of one of Kelly Wilson’s jerseys. A striker from Odessa, Texas, Wilson made two appearances and scored a goal for the U.S. Women’s National Team between 2002 and 2005.

“It’s very cool to use these symbols of the U.S. national teams as part of the push to keep everyone as safe as possible,” said O’Reilly, an East Brunswick native who was also part of a Women’s World Cup title. “We know wearing masks is critical to that effort. It means a lot to me to have represented the United States, and this is a positive way to contribute to helping get our country back on its feet.”

Finding inspiration

Park Ridge's Michelle Turner passes the ball during a game against Midland Park on Oct. 20, 2010.Buy Photo

Park Ridge’s Michelle Turner passes the ball during a game against Midland Park on Oct. 20, 2010. (Photo: Kevin Riley/Correspondent)

Turner and her older sister, Kelly Covello, played soccer at Park Ridge High School, as well as on club teams. Covello was an honorable mention All-Decade selection by The Record, and Turner was on the Owls team that won the first sectional title in 2007, but said, “I was so young then, I had no idea it was a big deal.”

Matt Turner grew up playing football, baseball and basketball, and credits his sisters with getting him started in soccer. He used to tag along to practice when their parents didn’t have a babysitter.

“They said, ‘Hey, Matt, jump in the goal for this shooting exercise,’ because everyone wants to score,” recalled Turner, 26, now in his fifth season with the Revolution. “I would try really hard because I wanted to look good.”

More: How a goalkeeper from Randolph is facing coronavirus in Denmark

He didn’t get into soccer until his freshman year at St. Joseph in Montvale, making varsity as a junior. After earning a starting spot when a teammate was injured, Turner recorded a 0.90 goals-against average and 20 shutouts.

His only NCAA Division I scholarship offer came from Fairfield. Again, Turner didn’t start until his junior year. He was named Fairfield’s Male Athlete of the Year after leading the NCAA in save percentage (89%) and shutout percentage (72%). 

Berhalter, the coach, named Turner to a pre-camp roster in November 2019. He wound up on the roster for two Concacaf Nations League victories against Canada and Cuba, but did not play. He was called in again for the 2020 January camp.

Michelle Turner has been an avid USWNT supporter dating back to the 1999 Women’s World Cup, when she was about 7 years old.

“I’m part of a pretty cool project to give my sister as much love and support as possible,” Matt Turner said. “The federation reached out to me. It was really, really thoughtful. It meant a lot to me.”

Said Berhalter, who grew up in Teaneck, “Front-line workers embody the values of courage, sacrifice and service that are the hallmarks of our nation. It is a tremendous honor representing the United States. The masks made from our game jerseys are a small way to thank all those who are working tirelessly for their communities when we need them most.”

New England goalkeeper Matt Turner of Park Ridge plays in the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando.

New England goalkeeper Matt Turner of Park Ridge plays in the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando. (Photo: Courtesy of Major League Soccer)

The pandemic has separated the Turner siblings more than usual.

Matt Turner was in Major League Soccer’s bubble in Orlando for the MLS is Back tournament, and then returned to Boston to train. New England will not visit Red Bull Arena in the first six-game phase of MLS’ rebooted regular season, which begins Wednesday. 

Turner has a 0.75 GAA and two shutouts in four matches. 

“The Revs, they told my story and told her story,” said Turner, who often sent his sister links to news appearances days later.

“She followed her dream,” he said. “She always wanted to be a nurse, and she made it happen. She really is my hero.”

Jane Havsy is a sports reporter for DailyRecord.com. For full access to live scores, breaking news and analysis, subscribe today.

Email: JHavsy@gannettnj.com Twitter: @dailyrecordspts 

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