Sounders keeper Gspurning embracing role as one of the fan favorites

If his wide smile doesn't tell it to you, it's his enthusiastic words about all things Seattle.

The last time Michael Gspurning had a meet and greet session at the Sounders FC Pro Shop in downtown Seattle, he arrived 10 minutes early and was confused when he saw a line from the front door that extended around the end of the block.

He thought that surely they must have been there for something other than to get memorabilia signed.

“I thought they were giving tickets away or something,” he smiled. “Then I saw they were just coming for autographs from players. That’s amazing. Seattle fans are so supportive. It’s great. I’m absolutely proud to be a Sounders player.”

Gspurning looks forward to the same supportive reception on Wednesday night as he will appear at the Downtown Pro Shop from 6-7 p.m.

The 32-year-old goalkeeper from Austria is only 16 months removed from moving to Seattle after spending the previous five years playing in Greece. Already, though, he has endeared himself to a fanbase that very well could have been reluctant to embrace the man who was replacing a legend in Kasey Keller.

In his first season with the Sounders, Gspurning exploded onto the scene by leading the league with a 0.73 goals against average, the third-best mark in league history. He helped the Sounders to their fourth straight US Open Cup final and their first appearance in the Western Conference Championship, posting two shutouts against Real Salt Lake in the conference semifinal series. For his efforts, he was named a finalist for MLS Newcomer of the Year and MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.

He picked up right where he left of in 2013. Though he didn’t get his first shutout of the season until a month ago in a scoreless draw with the New England Revolution, he now has shutouts in four of his last five matches and is third in the league with a 0.78 goals against average as the Sounders have climbed to 3-3-3 after going an unbeaten 3-0-2 in their last five matches.

And while the defense has been solid in recent weeks, the wins have come as a result of the Seattle scoring punch that has delivered timely goals help them outscore their opponents 8-2 in their last four matches.

“To be honest, I’m noticing that we’re getting better offensively. We played good soccer, but we didn’t get the results. Now we are scoring and that’s a great feeling,” Gspurning said.

While Gspurning may get credit for the shutouts on the record sheet – and he has 12 clean sheets in 30 regular season matches – he is quick to share the accolades with his teammates. And not just his backline, which has been strengthened by the additions of Djimi Traore and DeAndre Yedlin this season, but all 10 field players in front of him.

“It’s not just about a single person. It’s about the team. We’re like a chain and every member of the chain has to hold strong,” he said. “Without my other guys, I wouldn’t be able to have good performances.”

The tough tests continue for Gspurning and the Sounders defense as they host Western Conference leading FC Dallas on Saturday in a 7 pm PT kickoff from CenturyLink Field before heading to the Home Depot Center next week to meet the defending MLS Cup champion LA Galaxy.

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