Sounders FC marked goalkeeper Kasey Keller’s final regular-season home game Saturday by giving him a pair of bronzed goalkeeper gloves, a motorcycle and an all-terrain vehicle.
In return, Keller gave the record crowd of 64,140 at CenturyLink Field a performance to remember.
He contributed seven saves in Seattle’s 2-1 come-from-behind win over the San Jose Earthquakes.
After the game, a ceremony honoring Keller was held on the pitch. He received his gifts, watched a tribute to his long career on the stadium video boards, and then addressed the crowd.
“I’m just so humbled and honored to be here today, with what this club means to me,” said the Olympia native, who is retiring after 20 professional seasons. “I grew up watching the Sounders play, like all of you did. So to be able to finish my career playing with the Sounders is the biggest honor I could have in my career.”
The farewell to Keller helped draw the largest crowd to watch the Sounders in a league match, and the third-largest ever to watch an MLS game that wasn’t part of an international doubleheader. The Sounders ended their third MLS home season with a league-record attendance average of 38,498.
“I can’t say enough about how you’ve helped us launch the most important soccer franchise in North America,” general manager Adrian Hanauer said to Keller in the postgame tribute. “You were the first player that we wanted on this team and I can’t be happier for what you contributed for launching this franchise and making this an amazing three-year run.”
In terms of MLS standings, the game was meaningless to both sides. Seattle (17-7-9) has clinched second place in the Western Conference, while the Earthquakes (7-12-14) already had been eliminated from playoff contention.
However, coach Sigi Schmid had said he wanted to use the game to get the Sounders into the right form for the MLS playoffs.
However, the Sounders looked distracted early – especially on defense. And it finally cost them in the 25th minute, when Jhon Kennedy Hurtado misplayed a ball in the middle third. San Jose countered quickly, with Chris Wondolowski finishing with his MLS-high 15th goal of the season.
“The first half wasn’t our best half of soccer,” Schmid said. “I thought we gave away way too much space in midfield.”
The Quakes had several chances to build on their lead, but they were turned aside by Keller’s acrobatic saves. The best sequence came in the 66th minute, when he made three stops in a single San Jose attack.
“This was like the most nervous I’ve been for a game since the World Cup because I just didn’t want to disappoint,” Keller said. “I just wanted to be able to come out and help the team win a game today. I’m just so proud of the guys to not quit, to keep going. We’ve done it so many times this year. Once again, you just definitely don’t want to leave this stadium early.”
Seattle got even in the 82nd minute when Sammy Ochoa scored his first MLS goal, assisted by Mauro Rosales in his return from a knee injury.
The winner came in the 87th minute, when Fredy Montero notched his career-high-matching 12th goal of the season, assisted by Lamar Neagle and Brad Evans.
“Certainly you could see the impact that Mauro has on our game,” Schmid said. “When he came onto the field it just changed our whole dynamic a little bit. It was great to see Sammy Ochoa get his first goal in a Sounder uniform. And I thought Fredy Montero finished his goal very well – not to neglect certainly there were some big saves that Kasey made tonight that really kept us in the game.”
The Sounders return to CenturyLink on Tuesday, meeting Monterrey in the final game of CONCACAF Champions League group play.
They will conclude their MLS regular season Saturday at Chivas USA.