Name any of the world's top soccer clubs, chances are that Kasey Keller has faced them. Arsenal? Barcelona? Bayern? Manchester United? Real Madrid? Keller has played against them all. As his career winds down, the 41-year-old Seattle Sounders goalkeeper still takes his training seriously. After a recent workout at the IMG Academy soccer program where he got peppered with shots during a crossing and finishing drill that left him drenched in sweat, Keller talked about how his game compares now to 20 years ago, getting called out by fans, becoming an NFL kicker and his legacy.
Kasey Keller on...
...goalkeeping at age 21 compared to 41: As far as reading the game, there' s no question I'm better now. I make more saves because of positioning, preemptive organization or collecting a ball coming through the 18 as opposed to staying on my line and having to stop a guy one-on-one. That just comes with 600-700 games of experience. That's why you see so many goalkeepers playing older. I don't feel like I've lost too much of a step, even though I'm sure I have. Because of my ability to read the game and decision-making is quicker, I think it makes up for any lost reaction time.
...playing at the highest level: What has been pretty cool is just playing against the Real Madrids, Barcelonas and Manchester Uniteds and to play at all of their stadiums -- plus having some good results. I've won 1-0 at Old Trafford. I've won in penalties at Chelsea. I've won a couple times at Anfield. I've won a Cup game at Arsenal. It's cool to be able to say that.
...Romario calling Keller's efforts in a 1-o U.S. win against Brazil "the best performance by a goalkeeper I have ever seen.": That was a fun game. If you can have one of those in a career, you're pretty lucky.I think the cool part of that situation was that we're playing the previous World Cup champions, the previous Golden Boot winner in a FIFA event - not a friendly - and we win the game. Often, you can play a great game as a goalkeeper and still lose.
...passion of Seattle fans: It's as close as you're going to get to Europe. I've played for teams founded in the 1880s. Some fans have great, great grandfather who played for their team. You cannot underestimate the history. You combine that history with a ridiculous amount of passion. Sometimes that passion spills over into violence. I really hope we can continue to grow that passion in the U.S. but keep it at a level where there's an understanding. I know there's a fringe element here that wants to bring in hooliganism into the game, but it's not worth it.
...Sounders popularity in Seattle: You are known. You can't hide. Talk radio will call you out. We are on par with the Mariners. The Seahawks still run the show. With that, comes responsibility. If you go out and don't take care of yourself, fans are going to blog about it. If you aren't playing to the level, there will be criticism, rightfully so. If I make a mistake, I expect people to say, âWhat the hell was Kasey doing on that goal?â
...becoming a kicker for the Seahawks: It was actually an April Fool's joke. If you didn't read the article all the way through, which my dad didn't, you wouldn't know it wasn't real. He called me and said, âWow, really? That's great.â When I stopped playing football after my freshman year, I still kicked a little. It's a special talent. I wouldn't try to think I could a step on a football field and be an NFL-level kicker. Nobody around you, ball teed up, yeah, some soccer guys can kick a few balls. But you put that pressure on, with all of those huge guys chasing you, it's a different game. The statistics that guys are putting up recently are impressive.
...his imprint on the sport: I'm done. This is my last year for sure. This is it. I'm not much about legacies. Somebody had to be first. Somebody had to be the first to play in England on a U.S. passport. Somebody had to be the first to play in La Liga. I'm just proud I was able to be that person and to say that I was one of the people who hopefully got the ball rolling in helping the sport get where it needs to be in this country.