In the Seattle’s short MLS history, they have already established several consistent themes within the team. Among them are strong goalkeeping and an ability to integrate international talent into the roster.
Those two traits combined to bring in goalkeeper Michael Gspurning this year and the 31-year-old Austrian has turned in one of the best seasons in league history by posting a 0.72 goals against average with eight clean sheets in his 20 starts. His GAA ranks third on the all-time MLS list, behind only the 2010 seasons of Kevin Hartman (0.62) and Nick Rimando (0.67).
His most recent shutout against Real Salt Lake – his third consecutive clean sheet that extended his shutout streak that was eventually halted at 370 minutes – prompted head coach Sigi Schmid to praise Gspurning as the frontrunner for Goalkeeper of the Year.
“Michael has been everything we’ve hoped for and everything we expected of him,” Schmid said. “For me right now, he’s the Goalkeeper of the Year in this league. I think he’s the goalkeeper that’s been the most consistent.”
The Sounders are 12-3-5 when Gspurning starts, with all three losses coming to league-leading San Jose. The Sounders earn 2.05 points per game for Gspurning and he earns a shutout in 45-percent of his starts.
Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen is also a favorite in the award, coming in second in goals against average at 0.79, averaging 1.81 points per game and a shutout percentage of 45.4-percent.
Where Nielsen tops Gspurning is in total statistics, having played in every match for Kansas City while Gspurning missed 13 games with a hip injury. In his absence, the Sounders went just 3-4-6 with a 1.36 goals against average.
“We had one bad stretch, that was the stretch where he was injured,” Schmid said. “When you look at our record when he’s played, I don’t think there’s a goalkeeper that can match that record.”
Another category in which Gspurning stands to draw a lot of attention is in the Newcomer of the Year voting.
In Montreal, Patrice Bernier and Felipe Martins may be able to put up a good case, but neither has put up statistics that are nearly as eye-popping as Gspurning has in net. San Jose defender Victor Bernardez and Vancouver defender YP Lee also may be strong candidates, while Federico Higuain, Marco Di Vaio and Sherjill MacDonald all made big impacts after coming in midseason.
If Gspurning wins the Newcomer award, he will be the third Sounder to win in four years. Fredy Montero took home the trophy in 2009, with Kasey Keller and Freddie Ljungberg also appearing as finalists, and Mauro Rosales won in 2011.
With the team earning a franchise-best 12 clean sheets entering their final match of the season on Sunday against the LA Galaxy, Gspurning very well could continue that trend.