In the club’s first three MLS seasons, the Sounders FC has had one constant – Kasey Keller.
The legendary goalkeeper played 8,264 minutes in three seasons, missing just 196 minutes in league matches.
Seattle signed Austrian shot-stopper Michael Gspurning to take the top spot, but Keller’s run of good health was virtually unprecedented and it’s not out of the realm of reality that more of the available minutes for MLS, CONCACAF Champions League and US Open Cup matches could be distributed much more liberally in 2012.
“Kasey was so durable and he wasn’t going to give up that spot,” goalkeeper coach Tom Dutra said. “And I’d like to see our No. 1 not give up that spot, either. Any goalkeeper doesn’t want to give up games.”
While Gspurning doesn’t lack for competitive desire, two young returning Sounders goalkeepers are fighting not just for spots on the roster for the 2012 season, but also to impress the coaching staff enough to earn the confidence to pick up spells of minutes throughout the busy Seattle schedule.
Along with Bryan Meredith and Josh Ford, four-year MLS veteran Andrew Weber and former University of Tulsa standout Tyrel Lacey are also in camp competing for the two backup jobs behind Gspurning.
Meredith was a second round pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, but didn’t make the roster out of training camp. Instead he had a stellar season for the Kitsap Pumas in leading them to the PDL championship before rejoining the Sounders FC when Terry Boss suffered what proved to be a career-ending concussion.
Now with a full season as a professional under his belt, including an appearance against Mexico’s Monterrey in the CONCACAF Champions League, he has a new perspective.
“I’m a little more comfortable, a little more confident in my abilities. So it’s been a good start to preseason so far for me,” he said.
Ford was taken in the 2011 Supplemental Draft and earned a roster spot as the third goalkeeper, but saw action in just two reserve league games before a knee injury kept him off the field, too.
Though he is still recovering from that knee injury, he isn’t let it hold him back from competing for a spot on the roster.
“I wouldn’t want it any other way. I don’t want anything handed to me,” he said. “Now it’s just working hard again. We lost two good keepers and so we’re working hard to get some of those minutes that were lost.”
Lacey was a 2009 SuperDraft selection of the New England Revolution, but instead went to Norway where he spent two seasons with FK Lyn before returning stateside last year. Weber is a four-year MLS veteran, but has played only two MLS matches in that time, both coming with the San Jose Earthquakes in 2009. He also saw time with the Montreal Impact in the USL from 2006-2008.
Those four may be competing for the two backup jobs behind Gspurning, but that doesn’t mean they expect less of them than is expected of the No. 1.
“The goal is always to get in games. You don’t want to be out there training every day and not get anything on the weekends,” Meredith said.
Ford agreed, “It’s up to everybody else working to get his spot now. We’re all doing the same thing.”
Both Ford and Meredith had the luxury of training for a season behind the hard-working and perpetually improving Keller. The tenor of training hasn’t changed in the absence of Seattle’s only captain, though.
“We’re still working just as hard every day. You just don’t have that wise old man there helping you out,” Meredith laughed. “I got to learn a lot from him, so I was very lucky to have a year with him.”