Last week at Qwest Field, the Brougham End at Qwest Field was covered in banners honoring the history of the Sounders organization. One of the faces on those banners was that of former USL Sounders goalkeeper Preston Burpo.
He played with the Sounders from 1997-2005, helping them to the USL championship in his final season before finally signing on in Major League Soccer with Chivas USA. From 2006-2010 he played for Chivas USA, the San Jose Earthquakes and the Colorado Rapids before finishing with the New England Revolution last year, where a fracture of his tibia and fibula left the 38-year-old goalkeeper staring down retirement.
Born in Bethesda, Maryland, Burpo continued to call Seattle his hometown nearly from the day he signed with the Sounders. Now, he lives in Denver, Colorado, and I talked with him this week about the incredible display from the Emerald City Supporters, his ties to Seattle, his horrible injury and his plans for the future.
Q: What was your reaction when you saw the banners on Saturday night?
Q: You had a unique relationship with the fanbase when you were here. How would you describe that relationship?
Burpo: I was there for nine years and there was a core fanbase down in that corner – the ECS, which was formerly known as the Pod. You just see these faces game in and game out, in great weather and bad weather and you come to appreciate them. I tried to do what I could as far as saying hello and try to talk to them and get to know them and give them a little insight behind the scenes when you can. Even when I came back and wasn’t playing with them I made a point to say hello to them and give them a quick wave before or after the game.
Q: You’ve always called Seattle home and even though you’ve been gone since 2006 you’ve kept the (206) area code. What does the city of Seattle mean to you?
Burpo: Being there nine years I met a lot of great people in the soccer world and outside of the soccer world. There are still a lot of people that I keep in touch with out there. It was just one of those cities that felt right. They have a good vibrant downtown, it’s a good sports town, it’s a great place to be outdoors. It was an amazing time there and I always look back on my time there quite fondly.
Q: You went through a similar leg fracture that Steve Zakuani went through. What is that recovery like and where are you in that process?
Burpo: When it first happened, there were a lot of things rolling around in my head. One of them was that I was in big trouble. Sitting in the ambulance, I was lucky because my brother was at the game and he came with me. It was pretty emotional going to the hospital with him because I was going to be 38 at the end of the year and with this type of injury, that could be the end of it. That was where my mindset was for a couple of months as far as my career goes. But when I was doing my rehab, there were some pretty depressing days, to be honest, because of the thought that this was how it was going to end. Around September or October I started to make more progress and started to think more positive and I started thinking that physically and mentally I could get back in time for the season. When the Revolution took a pass on me, I took a bit of a dip again because I didn’t think another team would want to snag me up. Then it was pretty rough because I thought that was most likely going to be it for me. It’s a lot different with Steve because he’s young and he’s going to be in the facilities day in and day out. He’ll go through some tough days, but at the end of it, he’ll get back to normal and I’m sure he’ll do it a little bit quicker just because of his age.
Q: What kind of advice do you have for him as he goes through his recovery?
Burpo: He will make it back. They’ve got a first-class staff and a first-class facility in Seattle and I hear he’s got a lot of good people around him. Just try to stay as positive as you can and take your time because it will be a lot slower than he wants it to be, but at the end, he will be back.
Q: What is the next step for you? What do you have planned?
Burpo: Even though I knew this day would come, I didn’t expect it to come when it did. I’ve laid some pretty good groundwork with some people around the league and asked them to keep me in mind if the right job comes up. Ideally I’d like to stay in MLS in some capacity. I’ve been involved in soccer so long and it’d be nice to keep plugging away in this league and see it grow and have the quality get better, like it has in the last handful of years. For now, once nobody decided to pick me up I decided to just stay in Denver and keep my rehab going to make sure my leg gets back to as normal as possible. I’m doing a little bit of scouting for US Soccer at the youth level. That keeps me busy on some weekends and I’ve been getting in the mountains and doing some hiking and camping and trying to enjoy life as much as I can until I get back to work full-time.