Sounders FC trained Tuesday with two high-profile fans looking on: majority owner Joe Roth and former goalkeeper Kasey Keller.
Keller intentionally waited several days into training before coming out to watch the team from which he retired at the end of last season.
“I didn’t want the first day of training to be about me,” he said. “The first day of training was about the new guys that came in and getting their stuff going. It was nice to be able to say hi to the guys.”
Roth was in the region to attend the club’s quarterly meetings and to get his first look at what he believes will be an improved team.
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Sigi Schmid “is actually a very methodical coach. He’s really good,” Roth said. “We get better every year. And I can tell this year that we have the depth to get better. I still feel we have the best midfield in the league as it is.”
Keller and Roth arrived at Starfire Sports Complex on a day when the Sounders practiced as a single group for the first time and spent much of the session in 11-on-11 work.
“I thought some guys had some good moments,” Schmid said. “I was very happy with Andrew Duran today. I thought he did a couple of good things – the tackle he made on Darwin Jones, when Darwin turned the corner on him. He’s a pretty quick guy, and I think Andrew showed his speed. (Andy) Rose scored a nice goal.”
Keller and Roth each met with the media for about five minutes after practice. Some highlights of those interviews:
• Keller on whether he met with new goalkeeper Michael Gspurning: “Oh, yeah. But I showed up right when training was starting, so it wasn’t a case of sitting down and talking with anybody. That time will come later. Let everyone do their job. I don’t want to be a distraction and get in the way of anything. … It’s so early in preseason that it’s just interesting to see how it’s all going to go down. It’s nice to see some of the young kids. It looks good.”
• Keller on preparations for his new job in the Sounders’ broadcast booth: “Once (play-by-plan man Ross Fletcher arrives from England) I assume I’ll follow his lead. Obviously, he’s got a little more experience than I do. But we’ll probably queue up some old games and run through it like it was him and me doing that game.”
• Keller on whether he plans to make broadcasting a long-term career: “I have no idea. I think the longest I ever played at a club was four years, so I wasn’t exactly a person that did the same thing the whole time. It might be something that is what I do, and it might just be something that I do for a short period of time. I don’t know. I’m just looking forward to starting and having some fun.”
• Roth on the state of Major League Soccer: “Things are going well, there’s no question about it. Since Toronto came into the league, really – Toronto, Philly, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver and now Montreal – it’s like it’s all going in the right direction.”
• Roth on what he would like changed in MLS: “Obviously, I would like to see the salary cap go up. I’d like to be able to keep a core group of players. When I was growing up in New York, you never saw players traded. Players played an entire generation for the Yankees, the Dodgers, the football Giants. That’s a missing component in today’s sports, where you can’t keep track of where the players are going. Anything we can do to do that.”
• Roth on whether he is frustrated his otherwise-successful team has never won a playoff series: “No. We do get better. It’s hard to complain. I don’t like the playoff system much and never have. … I think we’ll have a good run this year. I do. I like our depth. So much depends to me as an owner on how effective (Steve) Zakuani can be and how quickly he can come back” from leg injuries.
The 2012 MLS All-Star Game will be played at PPL Park in Chester, Pa., home of the Philadelphia Union. The league all-stars will meet an opponent to be determined at 5 p.m. July 25. After the Tuesday announcement, Roth said the Sounders aren’t seeking to host an All-Star Game because season-ticket holders have indicated a preference for meaningful matches. … Supporters groups for the Sounders, Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps have agreed that all games between the three teams will count in determining the winner of the 2012 Cascadia Cup. This season, that means six games for each team. However, Portland will play four games of its cup matches at home, Vancouver three, and defending champion Seattle two.
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org twitter/donruiztnt blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer