RENTON — While dozens of Seattle Sounders and would-be Sounders battle for jobs in preseason camp, the club’s situation in goal seems solidly settled.
“For me, we have the best goalkeeping tandem in the league right now,” goalkeeper coach Tom Dutra said. “Who’s better? Really — who’s better? ... We feel really good about where we are right now with our goalkeepers.”
Sounders FC opened camp with what seems a secure situation: Michael Gspurning returns as the starter, Marcus Hahnemann is a quality veteran reserve, while third-year keeper Josh Ford gains experience behind them.
Also in camp is Doug Herrick, who played last season with Sounders U-23. Bryan Meredith and Andrew Weber were not retained.
“I think we had a great group last year,” Gspurning said. “Unfortunately, Bryan was leaving and Andrew was leaving. We really fit good together. But of course there’s only one position you can play, and it’s good for the other guys to get a chance to play somewhere else. Now we have a good group. We have a lot of fun, and we really work good.”
Last season, Gspurning was a new face on the club, brought in to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Kasey Keller. He exceeded expectations, setting a club-record 0.73 goals-against average.
“Now I have to prove it again, and everybody expects now maybe more, because I don’t have the onus of the new guy anymore,” Gspurning said. “But I really like it. I can be more into the leadership, too. ... If I stay healthy – that’s the only thing – if I stay healthy I know that I will bring my performance again and it will be a great season again.”
With Gspurning in goal, the Sounders went 12-4-5. But while he was out with a hip injury, they went 3-4-6 as Meredith and Weber filled in.
The club believes there would be less of a decline this season with Hahnemann waiting in the wings.
Hahnemann, 40, joined the team in June after more than a decade in Europe. He understands Gspurning is the No. 1 guy, but believes everyone benefits through competition.
“I’m going to try to push him, Josh is going to try to push me, and that’s the name of the game,” he said. “... I can help out in other ways, but I don’t think that’s what they had in mind. I need to be pushing Mike, and so we’re working hard.”
Waiting his turn is Ford, who had fewer chances than Meredith over their first two years with the club. This season, Ford emerged as the survivor, and the club believes he has the potential to develop into a starter in Major League Soccer.
“That’s why we kept him,” Dutra said. “Now he’ll be able to get more reserves games. It’s now, ‘Can we keep that progression going?’ For him, it’s to stay healthy first and foremost, and keep progressing. He has some weaknesses, but his strengths are what have kept him here.”
The Sounders continued fitness testing Saturday at the Seahawks indoor facility in Renton. After testing stamina Friday, the club switched over to speed work. The top time over 30 meters was 3.95 seconds, recorded by trialist Isaiah Schafer, a defender/midfielder from Mars Hill (N.C.) College. Top times among returning veterans were midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, 4.01; Ford, 4.10; and defender Andrew Duran, 4.11. Ford also had the best overall time over 10 meters. ... After the speed work, players new to the team reported to Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila for additional training. ... Supplemental draft pick Lebogang Moloto reported to training Saturday. ... Sounders FC will skip its annual Community Shield charity home exhibition game this season, citing a busy preseason schedule including the Desert Diamond Cup in Tucson. ... Seattle and other MLS clubs will wear new kits this season. The club had no comment on whether photos leaked online are the actual model that will be unveiled next month. ... The Sounders are off today. They will return to training Monday at Starfire.blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer