If he had any doubts about making good on a promise to play his last years at home, Kasey Keller quickly became a believer.
Stop reading for a moment, reach around and give yourself a pat on the back. Because it was you, the Seattle supporters, who helped cinch the deal.
“To have this franchise be embraced from Day One,” says Keller, “it made a big difference in my decision to come home and to become part of this. It matters here.”
‘It’ means a lot of things. Soccer matters here; lots of people play and coach and support the game. Clearly, this club, Sounders FC, matter to people. Sixteen-thousand and counting.
From eight time zones away, Keller could hear and see you. Whether it was buying season tickets, clamoring for the next big announcement or registering opinions online, he noticed. You sold him.
The fervor he’s experienced for 18 years–from pitch invasions at Millwall in ’91 to the delirium of traveling Fulham fans when a Keller shutout at Portsmouth preserved Premiership survival last May–has followed him home.
Keller could’ve returned to the Premier League or somewhere else in Europe, presumably for bigger bucks. But no, he came home.
“It’s not about dollar signs, pound signs, Euros or whatever,” Keller told a media audience Thursday. “It’s about finishing my career back in the U.S. and with an organization that Adrian, Joe and Drew proved to me is going to be something special.”
Passion sells. Sure, being a native son, Keller had other reasons, such as wanting to play before his family and friends, and to have his twins, Chloe and Cameron, get settled in school.
Yet it’s clear he’s energized. He’s eager to make appearances and spend much of the next five months further raising the awareness of Sounders FC.
He’s sold on the club leadership, and its “embracing” relationship with the Seahawks. “I was talking to Adrian, and our goal is that someday the Seahawks will rent this stadium from the Sounders. That’s the plan,” he said with a playful smile.
“To be a part of a new franchise, to be part of everything that I believe this team is going to stand for, it was too good of an opportunity to pass up.”
A Sounder for Life?
He wasn’t the club’s first signing and, barring a freak circumstance, he will never score a single goal. Still, the name Kasey Keller could soon become synonymous with Sounders FC.
If Kevin Calabro’s the voice of the franchise, Keller soon will become the face. Sebastien Le Toux preceded him and may outlast him, but Keller arrives as the complete package, according to Adrian Hanauuer, the general manager.
An outstanding player positioned in a pivotal role. He was born, raised and educated in the Pacific Northwest. But there’s more.
“He’s a huge soccer personality in this country, says Hanauer. “Smart, thoughtful, experienced. He’s a great ambassador for soccer. He’ll be a great person out there for the club.”
Watching highlights of Keller’s most glorious saves can leave one slack-jawed. So can his ability to speak fluent Spanish, better-than-average German and, oh yes, the Queen’s English. All were on display at the press conference.
Keller will, no doubt, help fill seats. He could also attract other quality personnel, be it players or coaches. He’s great between the pipes, but also admired by his peers for his leadership in the locker room. His German’s good, but that wasn’t the reason he was chosen skipper at Moenchengladbach.
For Keller, the goalkeeper, it’s a two-year deal. However, gazing into the future, one gets the picture that a lot of the Sounders FC history which is yet to be written, will have Keller’s name all over it.
“I hope to be a part of this franchise, not just for the two years of playing, but for 10-20 years after that,” says Keller. “I would love to be what (Franz) Beckenbauer has become to Bayern Munich. I’d love to work my way up and really be a part of Sounders FC for life.”
Yessir, Kasey Keller is a keeper.
Home at Last
Although certainly disappointed by the end of their cup run, the USL Sounders cannot afford a letdown when they return home Friday.
It’s the first of seven consecutive matches to finish the regular season at Starfire, and the first opponent is the league leader with undoubtedly some vengeance in mind. Puerto Rico has won seven of its last nine, with but one loss, to the Sounders back on Aug. 1.
With a win, Seattle can begin a charge toward retaining the Commissioner’s Cup. The Sounders begin the weekend five points behind Puerto Rico and Vancouver, whom they host Aug. 20.
“Coming home for the last seven will be a godsend for us,” says coach Brian Schmetzer. “It will seem like a vacation for most of the guys. I’m looking forward to it because I can rest and rest assured that the guys are home, they’re not traveling in cramped airplanes and their biological clocks will stay the same.”
As for the Sounders roster, Hanauer hints that it could still be expanded, if it’s a special player. “We’re still working the phones,” he says.
Turn On, Tune In
The forecast for Saturday sees two fronts colliding. Warm, sunny weather is stationed over the Northwest while a huge mass of matches arrives via the local cable and dish operators. And if you rise early enough, conceivably you can have it all.
In an 18-hour span, a football viewer could watch at least six matches from around the globe and still have plenty of time to catch some midday rays. But they would need to rise early.
Here’s how. Set the alarm for 3 a.m. Saturday, when the first of the four Olympic men’s quarterfinals, Brazil-Cameroon, commences on Telemundo (Comcast channel 607). At or near the final whistles, switch to Fox Soccer Channel for the first English Premier League fixture of the season, Arsenal-West Brom (4:45 a.m.). Don’t touch that remote because the tripleheader continues with Everton-Blackburn (7 a.m.) and Sunderland-Liverpool (9:30) with access to GolTV (Bundesliga) or Setanta, the options multiply.
Then, go take a nap. Outside.
Awaiting you at 4 is some aloe, a couch and some MLS fare: Columbus and Dallas at 4 on FSC and New England at San Jose at 7 on HDNet. And there’s your six-pack.
When Sunday comes, champions Man United hosts Newcastle (8 a.m., FSC) to conclude the first round of the EPL, with Valencia-Real Madrid, the Spanish Super Cup, slated for 1 p.m. (FSC).
Highlights later in the week include Olympic semifinals in the wee hours of Aug. 18-19 (USA v Japan, Monday, 6 a.m., MSNBC), the USA men’s World Cup qualifier at Guatemala on Aug. 20 (7 p.m., ESPN2) and the gold medal matches from Beijing. Women play at 6 a.m. (USA & CBC) on Aug. 21 and the men at 9 p.m. Aug. 22 (Telemundo & CBC).
Toughened by early adversity, the U.S. WNT has made it to the medal round. Natsha Kai tattooed Canada in overtime of the quarterfinal for a third successive win. After losing top scorer Abby Wambach in their final pre-Olympic match, the Yanks were greeted to China by early jitters in a 2-0 loss to Norway…Given the L.A. Galaxy’s penchant for going after big names and their desire for sudden impact to salvage this season, it seems Bruce Arena’s phone should soon ring. Beyond being a proven winner virtually everywhere he’s been, Arena knows the MLS culture, something that clearly frustrated Ruud Gullit during his brief run…The Galaxy’s got nothing on the chaos surrounding Manchester City going into the opener. The summer began with rumors of wooing Ronaldinho, then the signing of Jo. Now the club’s teetering with its owner, former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra, an international fugitive…European leagues are nearly operating on all cylinders. England and the Bundesliga commence this weekend, followed by Portugal on Aug. 24 and, finally, Italy and Spain to end the month…Around town, college seasons get underway in less than two weeks. Seattle University embarks on its journey into Division I with women’s road games beginning Aug. 22. The Redhawks’ men meet Washington in an exhibition that same day on Montlake. Seattle Pacific’s men and women host a doubleheader Aug. 28 at Interbay.