Sounders FC goalkeeper coach Tom Dutra is preparing for the 2012 season just like he would any other season.
However, he knows that this year will be much different than his first three coaching in Major League Soccer.
With the retirements of Kasey Keller and Terry Boss, only youthful keepers Josh Ford and Bryan Meredith remain from last year’s squad. In Keller, though, Dutra loses not only the club’s captain and one of the best goalkeepers in the league, but also a friend with whom he had trained for most of the last ten years.
“It’s very odd,” Dutra opined.
The duo, who both grew up in Olympia and have played with and against each other since their youth, had a lengthy conversation over Thanksgiving weekend. The one topic which was not discussed, Dutra said, was getting ready for the next season.
“I think of all of his performances throughout his career here with us and it’s very, very strange not to be working with him,” Dutra said.
Instead of the familiarity of Keller, Dutra will be coaching newcomer Michael Gspurning, whom the Sounders signed earlier this week, along with Ford and Meredith. Getting that trio, and any other goalkeeper to come aboard, prepared for the 2012 season is Dutra’s sole focus once training camp starts in late-January.
And while he may not be as familiar with those three as he was with Keller and grew to be with Boss, he is ready for the test that lies ahead for the goalkeepers of the Sounders FC.
“I’ll be honest, I can’t wait for the challenge of creating that same relationship. I can’t wait to sit down and figure out how to help that process toward getting them where they want to be,” Dutra said. “I should take some time to rest here and get away from the game, but that really has me thinking – how can we make this as successful as it was with Kasey.”
That will require work from the goalkeepers, but also some effort from Dutra.
He has shown in the first three years with the MLS club, though, that he’s not afraid of climbing any mountain ahead of him to reach his goals.
Every week during the season, Dutra estimates that cranks out in excess of 1,000 shots, crosses and other balls to help prepare the Seattle goalkeepers.
That workload would take its toll on anyone, let alone a coach who had his playing career end prematurely at the age of 26 because of broken legs and ankles. One of the fractures is now held together by a plate in his leg.
As that workload increased in the buildup toward the Sounders’ first MLS season in 2009, Dutra began putting a focus on his own fitness too. Rare is the day when you don’t find the 39-year-old former A-League Sounder in the gym putting himself through as rigorous a workout as any of the players he coaches would go through.
“For the young goalkeepers, when they see the time and work that Tommy puts in on the field, none of them can ever complain when he wants them to stay after training to work on some things,” said Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid. “They know that whatever he asks them to do, he’s done three times that much.”
The primary focus of his workouts is to ensure that he can maintain himself enough to continue to send in those crosses and shots to challenge his goalkeepers for years to come.
“There are a lot of good goalkeeper coaches out there who have lost their jobs because they can’t strike a ball and there are a lot of others who are in their 60s who can still strike a ball because they’ve kept their bodies right,” he said. “That’s one of the goals that I have for myself.”