The Seattle Sounders Football Club means a lot to a lot of people.
Count Kasey Keller amongst them.
Among other reasons, that is why Keller – playing in his final professional season – has been so openly embraced by the Sounders FC faithful in his three years with the club. It certainly helps that he is one of the most successful players in US Soccer history and helped lead the Sounders to three straight US Open Cup titles while also securing playoff spots in each season and advancing the club to the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.
Keller isn’t merely appreciated by the hardest of hardcore Sounders FC fans. He is one of them.
That relationship has been evident throughout his MLS career but was perhaps most emphatically stated after the Sounders won their second Open Cup title with a 2-1 win over the Columbus Crew at CenturyLink Field. Keller climbed the goal post and flipped over the crossbar, bringing down the net with him as he raised his arms in celebration toward the Brougham End, where the ECS had chanted and sung behind Keller for half of the night.
After returning to the turf, he ran to the supporters’ section, grabbed their microphone and led them in a rendition of one of their staples, “Take ‘Em All.”
“Kasey is a supporter’s player. Absolutely. He loves the interaction,” said Keith Hodo, co-president of the Emerald City Supporters. “He's a very special player and one that will be tough to replace. I don't envy Chris Henderson or Adrian Hanauer right now on that front.”
That appreciation goes both ways.
“It’s been the constant within this organization of a standard that is unmatched in MLS,” Keller said. “We, as players, are so proud to be able to play in front of that week in and week out that there’s a different kind of pressure that comes with that. You don’t want it to end, so you don’t want to disappoint. We know they’re behind us, regardless of the game. We’re just so happy to be able to reward them with some good play.”
It’s not mere hyperbole when Keller says he is Sounders fan.
Growing up in Olympia, he did regularly attend Sounders matches in the North American Soccer League. He even played in some exhibition games before Sounders matches when he was a kid.
That he went on to star for the US National Team and play 17 years in Europe was inconsequential to his love of the Sounders and when he had the chance to come back and play for the club, he leapt at the opportunity.
“I always want to see how Millwall is doing. I’m happy Rayo Vallecano is back in La Liga in the top flight. I’m always looking to see how Monchengladbach is doing and happy that they’ve had a great start to the season. But they aren’t my team,” Keller said. “The Sounders really is my team. It’s my team that I watched as a kid. I’m so proud to be able to play and be a part of the community and hopefully be a part of this franchise for many years to come.”
In addition to their love of the Sounders, another tie that binds Keller to the core supporter group is his love of music.
To be specific, his love of heavy metal.
This comes a surprise to many who meet Keller. He is, after all, very well-spoken, a great family man (‘Why can’t a family man listen to metal?’ he laughed) and even did a reading from a children’s book do a group of kids in one his first public appearances with the Sounders FC.
“He’s very cerebral, but people are shocked to hear that he is a death metal addict,” laughed former roommate with the US National Team and a teammate at Fulham in England Brian McBride. “You can’t understand a word those guys are saying.”
Keller doesn’t shy from his love for all things metal, too. Through the years he has become good friends with band members in Tool, Sepultura, Avenged Sevenfold, Disturbed and others in the scene.
However, Keller’s retirement will also mean another change for the fans.
“I’ve been thanked multiple times for my influence on the playlist during warm-ups. I’ve got a bad feeling that may change next year,” Keller smiled. “Take it while you can for these next couple of games.”
He’s talking about the music, but to those who have enjoyed his play on the field – whether it be for the last 20 years or just the last three – he may as well be talking about himself.