Ten Questions with Kasey Keller

In many ways, with 102 caps over the last 17 years, Kasey Keller has become the most recognizable face of American soccer worldwide.In many ways, with 102 caps over the last 17 years, Kasey Keller has become the most recognizable face of American soccer worldwide. Although associated with his Pacific Northwest roots (North Thurston High School, University of Portland), he has spent his distinguished professional career playing entirely overseas. This season he won the No. 1 job at Fulham FC. Although now recuperating from shoulder surgery, he hopes to be back in the nets in January.

Have you been keeping up to date on the MLS developments in Seattle?

I knew that a couple years ago they were close when Salt Lake ended up getting it. This last time I was pretty clued in, and before signing at Fulham I actually got to meet Adrian and Joe Roth while I was in Seattle. Now that the team is official, speaking as a Seattleite or a Northwest person who has been involved in the game for a long time, I’m extremely excited. It’s more than a year away, and you’re looking at already looking at over 9,000 tickets sold. All I can say is that it’s rewarding and long overdue.
Some top keepers often play into their 40s. Do you see yourself doing that?

I’ve said all along that I want to play at a high level which people expect of me and I expect of myself. The tricky part is figuring that out ahead of time. I don’t want to become the goalkeeper who should’ve retired last year. By coming here to Fulham and winning the No. 1 job I proved that I’m still at that level. And although I’ve got an injury now, I feel my body’s in overall good enough condition so that I should be able to play another 2-3 years.
Why are some European teams more inclined to take Americans?

There’s still a little bit of negative stereotyping against Americans, and I don’t mean that personally. It’s just that the big clubs have a lot of money and a lot at stake, so they look to Argentina, Brazil, Holland and wherever. But maybe the clubs with not so much budget see that the Americans can play internationally, they’re professional and they perform. And once there, they actually see the Americans are better than they expected, so they are open to looking for more. I think that accounts for the four of us (Keller, Carlos Bocanegra, Brian McBride and Clint Dempsey) here at Fulham.

You played in Germany, Spain and England. What are the differences in each of those countries in terms of the game?
I have had some great experiences by playing in different countries and living in different cultures. Playing in Dortmund, in front of 80,000 fans  at both the old Munich stadium and the new Allianz Arena; or in Spain at the Bernabeu or Nou Camp; to play at Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool. It’s really tremendous to have played with so many different players, in so many unforgettable places.
What about for a keeper; are certain strengths required more in some leagues?

In the Premier League it’s probably beneficial to be better at handling crosses. In Spain you have to be a bit quicker off your line, and it’s extremely technical. You have to have thick skin in England, because it seems like the press don’t believe the strikers score that many good goals, that the keepers usually could’ve done more (to stop them). In Germany and Spain, they tend to give the forwards the credit for scoring more.

This is the third time you’ve lived around London? What’s the difference this time around?
A lot of British people may argue, but I believe London’s changed for the better. I guess you could say it’s become Americanized during the last 15 years. Stores are open longer and the overall convenience factor is improving all the time. The only big drawback is the traffic. They say the Romans were kicked out too early, that they haven’t built any more straight streets since then. I heard one study which says that nothing much has changed in the last hundred years; the average speed to get around is still 6 miles per hour. Getting around London is the only big drawback.
In moving from Germany to Britain, was it difficult giving up the castle, and did you ever tease your twins about sending them to the dungeon?

Actually the dungeon had been converted to a spa, so we didn’t have much leverage there. I was ready to get out of the castle. It was a great experience, but when you’re living in a property that’s a thousand years old, some things need a lot of work. We were renting and it was ready for someone to buy and develop it. A lot of things were breaking. Still, we had a great time, and we’re happy to have that experience in the memory banks.
What’s your most vivid memory of a game you played?

The Brazil game in the Gold Cup is really, really tough to beat. Playing against the current world champions and then the comments of Romario afterward, and the fact that we won makes that game pretty tough to beat.
FIFA invited you to participate in the recent preliminary draw for 2010 World Cup. Any nervousness about plucking a ball out of a bowl?

Initially, they said I’d fly down to South Africa and help with the draw. But when I got there they said, ‘Kasey, you’ll have the most complicated job of all.’ Actually I’m glad we had a couple rehearsals. Seriously, I needed to be focused. We were joking that if you really wanted to make a name for yourself, you could become world famous in a matter of minutes. Just drop a couple balls, then stumble after them, drop ‘em again, then trip on the steps. You could really do something to embarrass yourself.
What about celebrating the holidays overseas? How has it bee for you, from country to country?

Christmas for me, in the English league, is a nightmare. You play on the 26th and then the 28th. I think that out of the 12 seasons I’ve played in England, I’ve spent Christmas night in a hotel room nine times. Now, the best memory was my first full season in Germany, where they have the winter break. To be home for Christmas in Olympia for the first time in 14 years, then to go to our house in the mountains of Idaho, that was great.