19 years later, Kasey Keller looks back and wonders how things may have been different.
Fresh out of the University of Portland, Keller signed with Millwall of the English Second Division in February of 1992 and trained there until finally making his debut on May 2. It was the club’s final match of the season and they were slated to face Southend United in a meeting of two teams at the middle of the table.
The result – a 2-0 shutout for Millwall to close out the 1991-1992 season and the start to one of the most storied careers in American soccer.
“I don’t know what would have happened if that had gone different - if we would have lost 3-1 and I had a terrible game,” Keller said. “But it worked out the way it did and it built a ton of confidence for myself knowing that I’d done it. I’ve played. We won. I got a shutout. I was ready to come back for preseason the following year and try to win the spot.”
Now, in 2011, Keller is preparing for his final season as a pro with the Sounders FC.
It is a career that includes incredible exploits at both the professional and international levels. He earned his first cap with the US National Team at age 20 and was on the first of four World Cup squads that he would suit up for in his career. He is a three-time winner of the US Soccer Athlete of the Year and the most-capped goalkeeper in US history with 102 appearances, along with posting the most wins and shutouts.
“In goal, he’s one of the icons of American soccer, for sure,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “For me, in goal, Brad Friedel and Kasey Keller are the premier goalkeepers the US has ever produced. Maybe Tim Howard will get into that group one day. If you have one of those guys in goal, you’re off to a good start. Having Kasey here has been a tremendous backbone to the organization and the team shape, as well.”
And despite those superlatives and a career that has included stops with Millwall (where he was the first American to play in Europe on an American passport), Leicester City, Rayo Vallecano in Spain, Tottenham Hotspur, Southampton, Borrusia Monchengladbach in Germany and Fulham before finally landing in Seattle, Keller isn’t about to make 2011 a season-long retrospective on his career as a professional or international.
“This season isn’t about me, it’s about the Sounders continuing to get better as a club and to go and fight for everything we possibly can,” Keller said. “I want to treat every game like I have my whole career. There’s nothing different just because this is my last season.”
Even still, fans of Keller, the Sounders FC or American soccer can hardly feel ashamed if they feel the need to honor the career of Seattle’s captain. He certainly isn’t hiding his pride in the fact that he gets to end his career on his own terms and in his hometown.
“I just don’t know what life would be like if I didn’t have this experience. I’m just so grateful and happy that it came about at the time and that I was able to be a part of something so cool,” he said. “I think when it truly is going to sink in is January of next year when I’m not getting ready to go back to preseason. Right now it’s the same job as normal.”
Meet the Goalkeepers
Kasey Keller – Now in his third year with the Sounders FC, Keller has been among the best goalkeepers in MLS since joining the league in 2009 after a 17-year European career. He has a career goals against average of 1.038, ranking him third in the league in that span and is fourth in points per match with 94 points in his 57 decisions (1.649 per match). His 21 clean sheets are also second in the league.
Terry Boss – Seattle’s No. 2 earned the bulk of his experience in Champions League and Open Cup play last year. In four matches, he had two clean sheets and finished with a 1.25 GAA. In 2008, he was the USL-2 Goalkeeper of the Year after leading the Charlotte Eagles to the USL-2 regular season title and into the championship match.
Josh Ford – Though not officially signed, he is the only remaining goalkeeper in camp. Taken in the 2011 MLS Supplemental Draft, Ford had a great career at the University of Connecticut, starting 85 matches and posting 50 shutouts in his four years.