World Cup qualifying matches can be crazy for a player.
If they are in season, they leave their club and join with their countrymen in various parts of the world for sometimes as few as just one match before returning to their club team. They might often change roles, as has been the case with Sounders FC midfielder Brad Evans in his stints with the US National Team as a rightback.
The same is happening with Sounders FC television analyst Kasey Keller, as the legendary goalkeeper balances his duties with the club with his other job as an analyst for ESPN. With the local broadcast, he handles color commentary of the match alongside play-by-play voice Ross Fletcher, but on the national network he has a much broader job description, providing studio analysis for ESPN’s coverage of the US National Team, as well as other tournaments covered by ESPN.
“It’s a little tricky because you want to be everyone to everybody and it’s difficult because you just don’t have the time,” said the Olympia native. “It’s trying to figure out what works best for who and understanding that right now the Sounders are my main employer and they have been extremely accommodating. The nice part is that ESPN’s schedule meshes so well with MLS. That makes things that much easier for me.”
In 2010, Keller was playing with the Sounders FC and wasn’t involved in the World Cup cycle, which was difficult for the veteran of 102 caps with the US National Team. So he watched as a fan on television like much of the rest of America as Landon Donovan scored a late goal to rocket the US into the knockout round.
Now handling studio duties for ESPN since his retirement following the 2011 season, Keller has had the opportunity to get involved in a World Cup cycle again. It’s been a welcome addition to his schedule as he sharpens his broadcast skills and offers his unique perspective on the matches.
“It actually feels good. It felt weird not being involved at all in 2010. Now I’m meeting with Jurgen Klinsmann the day of games and going to practices and things like that. It feels fun to be on this part of it,” he said. “The most rewarding part is staying involved, but still having a little bit of control of my schedule. As a player, that’s something that you just don’t have.”
With the US international matches have also come some lower profile matches too. He was a big part of ESPN’s coverage of the 2012 European Championships, putting him at the network’s headquarters in Bristol, Conn., throughout the tournament. That has meant some interesting names to learn and interviews to translate.
Coming up in the Confederations Cup in Brazil starting Saturday, Keller will return to his color-analyst chair and will handle those responsibilities for a match between Tahiti and Nigeria on Monday. And while the translations and pronunciations can prove difficult, it is again nothing new to Keller.
“I had to deal with it as a player. At Monchengladbach, I was speaking with my leftback and my left centerback in English, my Brazilian centerback in Spanish and a Czech guy with a couple words of German I knew,” he laughed. “I’ve had my time stumbling through languages.”
One thing he has needed to adjust to is being on the other side of the player-media relationship. He has been praised for bringing the player’s perspective to the broadcast while not being afraid to offer a hard-edged opinion too when necessary.
However, he has kept his distance from too much of the media stigma.
“No, no. I’m still always going to take the player’s standpoint when it comes to the media,” he laughed. “It’s still the dark side and I’m trying to just live in the gray.”