Tuesday afternoon, the Sounders FC sent out a press release announcing that one of their players would feature in an international match.
The player had four international caps already, but still the announcement drew a puzzled response from even the most ardent of Sounders followers.
Goalkeeper Terry Boss was called in by Puerto Rico to play in the Caribbean Championships Stage One in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, against Anguilla on Saturday and Saint-Martin on Monday.
“No comment,” chuckled Steve Zakuani.
“Well, it was either Puerto Rico or Nigeria. I wasn’t sure which way he was going to go,” laughed Kasey Keller.
Even Boss laughs at the notion.
“I’m definitely not your typical Puerto Rican,” said Boss, a native of Philomath, Oregon. “There are some other lighter-skinned players on the team, but I definitely stand out a little bit. From Oregon to Puerto Rico is quite a stretch.”
Boss left on Thursday to join Puerto Rico and is slated to rejoin the Sounders FC on Tuesday.
All jokes aside, Boss’ teammates are proud of him for taking the opportunity to play internationally –though his route to that stage is a rather unfamiliar one.
In 2008, Puerto Rico reemerged after a long absence and opened their federation to any American players who would give up their eligibility to play for Puerto Rico, which is an American territory. Players like Sounders FC defender Taylor Graham took them up on the offer and played in friendlies in early 2008. After only a few matches, though, FIFA closed that door and only allowed players with more direct ties to Puerto Rico.
After playing for the Puerto Rico Islanders in the USL-1 for two years in 2006 and 2007, Boss had become naturalized and was then eligible to play for the Puerto Rican National Team, an offer he debated at length internally. He talked it over with his parents. before finally deciding to accept, joining for World Cup qualifiers against the Dominican Republic and Honduras later in 2008.
“That ends your childhood dreaming of playing with the US National Team,” Boss said. “But sometimes you have to take the opportunity that’s on the table. This opportunity was there and you can’t look back. It took me on a path that’s led me to a place that I’m going to be for a long time.”
This week, Boss was faced with a similar internal debate. Leave an opportunity to play internationally on the table to watch from the bench in a critical league match against Toronto FC, or bypass his club to play in two Gold Cup qualifying matches.
“It was a tough situation. I’m happy and proud to be a part of the Sounders and I love being here every game day. On that side of it, it was really hard to leave,” he said after posting a 2-0 shutout over Marathon in the CONCACAF Champions League. “On the other side of it, it is an opportunity to get games and any chance you get to play at that level in an international match, it’s a good thing. As a backup right now, I want as many games as I can get. The more games you play, the more comfortable you get. It was nice to get out and get a stretch of games and finish with a win.”
And play, Boss has, of late.
In addition to starts in the last three Champions League matches, he started and shutout the LA Galaxy 2-0 in the quarterfinals of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup on July 7.
“It’s been good for Terry to get games. These last three games have been important and he has the next one coming up in that competition,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said, referencing Seattle’s final Champions League match with Saprissa at Qwest Field on October 19. “You can train all you want and you can learn a lot from training and from watching Kasey, but at the end of the day you have to put that into action by getting games. It was good for us to get him games.”
This weekend is just another opportunity for Boss to add to that experience. After spending the last year working behind Keller, who has 102 caps for the US National Team, his time was limited to friendlies and a second half injury substitution in one league game. Then this year, he added Champions League and Open Cup matches to his resume.
“It’s so hard to judge without playing games. Now he’s got a few games under his belt and he’s done a great job,” Keller said. “When you have an opportunity to play international soccer for your country, I’m never going to tell somebody to turn that opportunity down.”
While he may have traded in his eligibility to play with the US National Team, his club team is one that he has come to live and die for. It has become, in just over a year, a place that he hopes to never leave.
“I’m playing for an unbelievable club in an unbelievable city - life is good,” Boss said. “I want to keep getting games and keep proving myself and earn my keep here because I want to stay here for a really long time.”
Boss is scheduled to return to the team early on Tuesday and hopes to be available for the 18-man roster in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup final against the Columbus Crew that night. Tickets are still available for that match through www.SoundersFC.com.