10 Questions with Kasey Keller

Since officially joining the Sounders FC last month, Kasey Keller and his family have begun setting their roots.

Since officially joining the Sounders FC last month, Kasey Keller and his family have begun setting their roots. They’ve moved to the Seattle area, the kids have started school and life begins anew, in America. That means many things, driving a moving truck in the freeway slow lane and waiting for the cable guy between 12 and 4, among them. So, to fill the time while hanging around the house, Keller answered a few questions regarding his new perspective on this side of the world.

One of your first appearances for Sounders FC was golfing in the Rumble at the Ridge, featuring many NFL legends. How did you play and whom did you see?
I saw a lot of guys that, when I was a kid, were big. Dave Krieg came up and said hi. In fact, a lot of the ex-Seahawks were all commenting how lucky the team was to get Gary Wright. That was a common theme. I had a long talk with Tom Mack, the hall of fame lineman. I also met Ted Hendricks, Carl Eller and a lot of other real good guys. We came in second and I hit some very good and some not-so-good shots, but we made a nice team. Besides one hole, everybody picked up for somebody else. 

After being in Europe for so many years, what was it like watching European matches those first few weekends?
It was a little weird, in not being there, not being part of the whole makeup in Spain, England or Germany. It was strange but it was alright. It feels fine and it’s the right progression.

You’ve played for a number of clubs, but which team–whether you played for them or not–is the one you feel most drawn toward?
I usually try to check the results of most the teams I’ve played for. I’ll see how Tottenham, Fulham and definitely how Monchengladbach do. Michael Bradley is going to the perfect place for him and he’ll do well. For the most part, those are the three teams I usually look for, but I also have an interest in Millwall and Leicester and hopefully they will get a promotion run together.

You wore the No. 1 shirt last season at Fulham but requested your usual national team No. 18 with Sounders FC. Why is that?
Throughout the years when I’ve been at home, there’s been a lot of kids wearing the ’18,’ and I think that may have been in response to me wearing it with the national team. I just wanted to continue that idea, which is that most people in America are used to me wearing ‘18.’ 

Although you’re available for national team call-ups, it’s possible you may have earned your last cap. What will you miss and not miss about international duty?
There are a lot of things that I won’t miss, with the travel being No. 1. What I will miss is getting together with certain friends that I don’t see so often. That group of guys has changed dramatically in the last couple years after being a pretty stable group. The national team was also my only connection with the U.S. fans. Obviously that will change now, being in MLS, but before that was my only time to see the fans around the country. I definitely won’t miss nights like that [Aug. 20] Guatemala game. Traveling down there and dealing with a terrible pitch, terrible lights, the fans, the response from the Guatemalan team, the diving and trying to get guys sent off, and when that didn’t work, trying to injure people. I’m not missing any of that.

Goalkeeping has changed quite a bit during your days in the net. There was the, the three-steps, the 6-second rule and, in 1992, most significantly, the abolition of the back pass by foot. What’s been the toughest adjustment?
The back pass was the most difficult because up until then, you’d been taught your whole life you pick up the ball. Then, suddenly, you had to start practicing it as a pro. It came into play my first season as a pro, and I’d never had to deal with it until then. Before if you didn’t pick it, you’d be yelled at. I don’t think there are too many sports or positions on the field where you have to go through such a drastic change once you’ve already turned pro. Now I see games of way back when, and I find myself going, ‘Whoa, what’s going on? Why’s he picking it up?’ But it’s definitely a good rule. It just would’ve been nice, for me, if it had been implemented 10 years sooner.

You’ve played in Seattle only three times, two friendlies and one Gold Cup appearance in 2005–all with the national team. We know you to be very focused, but did your mind ever open to the notion that, Yeah, someday maybe I’ll be here, playing for the home team?
I’d always hoped I could come home and play in Seattle or even Portland, really, having gone to the University of Portland. Obviously, Seattle was my preference. But there wasn’t a team in either city. So dream was right word. It was an idea that crosses your mind, but then goes out just as quickly because, really, who was I going to play for? Reporters in Europe would ask me, ‘So why don’t you go home and play?’ I’d say, ‘Because where I come from, there’s no team, and if I’m going to be in New York or Texas, I’m still a 4-5-6 hour flight away, so I might as well stay in Europe. It wasn’t really until I found out there was going to be a team in Seattle, that I started to get interested.

People say that by returning to the States and Seattle in particular seems like the ideal way to tie a bow on your career. But we’re talking about 2-3 more years, right? And you’re probably thinking that those seasons will have a lot to do with how pretty that bow looks, right?
We have to understand that there’s a very good chance that in the first year the team will struggle. I don’t know of one franchise that has actually gone on to be successful in their very first year, in any sport. To think we’re going to step in that first year and be really competitive, that’s a bit unfair expectation of the team. Having said that, we’re going to try, Adrian’s going to try to have a team that’s competitive, and obviously I’m going to do my part. So will Sebastien and the rest of the new guys. I’m thinking we’ll iron-out some of the kinks that first year, and then I’m really looking forward to that second year. I think that’s a realistic goal.  We’ll try to make it happen in the first year, but that’s easier said than done.

In Bull Durham, we see Crash Davis taking the young Nuke LaLoosh under his wing. You’re going to be Sounders FC’s Crash, and I’m wondering if you are already familiar with a few pearls of wisdom to share with the relative newbies?
A lot of it will be individual, and what I see in certain guys. It will depend on the individual and what I see they can improve upon in their game. Maybe it’s a guy who thinks he can go to Europe or maybe it’s a decent player who’s finding himself going in and out of the team. They’re trying to turn into a starter and possibly make a career out of the sport. It will be individually based, but there have been many times in my career when I’ve either been given that wisdom or given it to someone else. I feel very comfortable in that role as a veteran guy who will have more experience than anybody else, and be able to help. At the same time, I won’t shove it down people’s throats. I’ll look for the right time, and if it’s the right thing for the club, then I’ll try to help them. But nobody wants to hear what to do from Day One. 

What’s the memory so far which tends to bring a smile to your face when you recollect or share it as a story with someone?
There’s so many memories from over the year, and that’s one nice part. My career is defined by different teams, by different achievements. For example, it’s not just the game against Brazil in the Gold Cup. It’s having great run games to help Borussia stay up. It’s having a great run of games to help Fulham stay up, to help Leicester win a cup. Still, one of the big moments to talk about, especially to soccer people, is during the game against Brazil at the ‘98 Gold Cup. Romario was just so frustrated or impressed with how I was playing that there’s one stage, when I was on the ground with the ball in my hands, and he was standing over me. And he just reached down and shook my hand. I guess he didn’t know what else to do. But it’s not often you have the goal leader from the current world champion just decide to shake your hand in the middle of the game. That’s special.