Up until the 1989 FIFA World Youth Championships, Kasey Keller was just a farm boy from Olympia who was playing collegiately at the University of Portland.
After the US U20s placed fourth in that tournament in Saudi Arabia, though, Keller’s legend began to grow, as he was presented with the Silver Ball after unexpectedly leading the US squad to the semifinals of the 16-team tournament.
Now he is using that experience – and the 22 years of experience that followed – as an assistant coach with the US U20 National Team as they prepare for the 2013 U20 World Cup with a training camp in Carson, Calif.
“It was just nice to come in for a full week and not necessarily for a day or two in a camp and be a little bit of a presence but to truly come in and be a full assistant coach,” said Keller, who previously worked with the team on select dates during the build-up to the qualifying tournament. “They’re a team and I’m just coming in to help out and do what I can. It’s been a real positive experience. I’ve spent 25 years of my life as a National Team player, either through the youth or through the full team and to be able to give some of that experience back is great.”
Keller was invited to work with the team as an assistant coach by US U20 head coach Tab Ramos, but Keller did not want his coaching duties to interfere with his commitments as a broadcast analyst with the Sounders FC.
And Keller has quite the experience to lean on.
The US did not qualify for the 1989 tournament, but were let in after Mexico was banned from the tournament for using overage players in qualifying. They took advantage of that second chance by going 1-1-1 in the Group Stage to advance to the knockout round. There, they topped Iraq in the quarterfinals before falling to Nigeria after extra time. They then lost to Brazil in the consolation final to finish fourth overall in the tournament and Keller earned the Silver Ball for the second-best individual performance in the tournament – an honor that was presented to him by Pele.
“I made my name at a Youth World Cup. That’s where everything started for me on the international level,” Keller said. “These kids are about to embark on that same journey and I hope to be able to give some of what helped me along the way and a little bit of instruction here or there.”
Since the Sounders have a bye this weekend, that opened up the opportunity for Keller to help out. He’s not the only one with Seattle ties though. Sounders FC right back DeAndre Yedlin is also in camp, along with Sounders FC Academy forward Jordan Morris.
The opportunity to help out as a coach is not only a good chance for some US youth internationals to learn from a US Soccer legend, but it’s also a good chance for Keller to gauge his interest in coaching, something he has pondered pursuing since his career ended in 2011 after three seasons with the Sounders FC.
“Right now, it’s just about doing whatever I can throughout the game. The broadcasting side is a lot of fun,” he said. “I’d like to be involved on the coaching side a little bit and see what it feels like later on down the road.”
The US camp runs through Sunday, at which point Yedlin will return to the Sounders FC.
The U20 World Cup begins June 20 in Turkey and the US is in a group with Spain, France and Ghana. The 24-team tournament runs through July 13.