Washington is keeper country, or it was. It may now be making a comeback. The long history of great keepers from the state goes back to a certain for Sounders FC keeper named Kasey Keller. In January local product Tally Hall was in the United States National Team camp. Sounders Academy product Paul Christensen is the primary keeper for the US U-17s and is in residency with that team.
Another great keeper, and current number two with the club, Marcus Hahnemann says that it starts with Keller, “When you see someone have success and you can think ‘I can do that’ and then you strive for it. One of the reasons I ended up going to England was that Kasey went over straight out of school. I was watching what Kasey was doing and wanted to do that.”
Seattle Sounders FC goalkeeper coach Tom Dutra was part of that early wave and is now the man instructing the talent at the First Team level.
“There was a good tradition of good goalkeeping early on. Rob Walker was huge when we were growing up. He was a guy that really wanted to be a goalkeeper specialist,” Dutra explains after Friday’s practice. “He started off and then you just had the guys coming through the system. At youth level we always had a good pool of goalkeepers that pushed each other. It was a good place to come through.”
With the keepers scattered around MLS and the success of local legends there are symbols of success that were much harder to find in the late 80s and early 90s.
“I think about all the young kids, the goalkeepers throughout not just Washington, but around the league, where they can come out and see guys play. If I was a young kid I would be out here all the time and watching them move and work and seeing top pros training every day,” Dutra says of that opportunity. “I couldn’t imagine what that’s like, because I didn’t have it.”
It takes more than just unlocking ambition and symbols. There is more to success than just watching the current crop of MLS keepers. Quality coaching needs to be present. Washington was fortunate to have that in Walker and now with the youth clubs and the Academy that continues.
“You have to go look at the soccer clubs that have been around for so many years now. They’re run so professionally,” Hahnemann notes about the current state of Washington youth soccer. “They have good coaches; coaches who have played the game. Having that sort of coaching year round, they’re getting good coaching. And then seeing people who have made it, especially from the area that must drive people.”
There are players coming through the more modern soccer education system now. Hall, Spencer Richie and Ryan Herman at the University of Washington and Christensen with the Sounders and the United States. Washington is on its way back to being Keeper Country according to Dutra.
“It was definitely that way for a long time, it took a dip, but I think it’s getting better. Now it’s back with the young ones.”