Kasey Keller is used to fans standing and cheering for him at Qwest Field. But Sunday afternoon it was a little bit different.
Keller raised the 12th Man flag at Qwest Field before the Seattle Seahawks faced the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, drawing raucous cheers as he waved to the crowd from behind the south end zone where the Emerald City Supporters customarily sing his praises on Sounders FC game days.
“To be a lifelong Seahawks fan and to be given that opportunity was a lot of fun,” said Keller, who was raised in Olympia and went to North Thurston High School. “I watch the games, I come to a lot of games, so it was cool to be given the honor.”
The Sounders FC goalkeeper and captain is coming off of a standout first year in Major League Soccer after spending 16 seasons in Europe. He was second in the league in most goalkeeping statistics, including wins (12), goals against average (0.92) and shutouts (10). He also led the Sounders to the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup title and a 12-7-11 regular season record to reach the playoffs.
“We feel real happy with the base that we put together last year. I’m sure Adrian is trying to find a couple more pieces to help strengthen the team,” said Keller, who celebrated his 40th birthday Nov. 29. “With a little bit of luck we’ll get everybody back healthy and ready to go and we’ll be able to make a real good run at it.”
The 12th Man honor capped a busy weekend for Keller, who was in attendance when his alma mater, University of Portland, lost to the University of Washington men’s basketball team 89-54 at Bank of America Arena Saturday night.
“I went to University of Portland, so obviously I’m a big fan, but I also support the Huskies and my dad went to Washington State, so I support the Cougars. I’m just one of those local sports fans that supports all the local teams,” Keller said. “(Saturday) night I was rooting for the Pilots and … Wow. Hopefully we can chalk that one up to experience and bounce back.”
Also on hand was Steve Zakuani, who was interviewed at halftime on the television broadcast on FSN, and former Sounder Jarrod Smith. Zakuani, for one, signed several autographs while walking around the concourse before the game and at halftime.
“The way things have gone in one year has been phenomenal,” Keller said. “It’s only going to get bigger.”
The Sounders kick off the 2010 season March 25 at Qwest Field against the expansion Philadelphia Union.