Goalkeepers Michael Gspurning of Seattle Sounders FC and Nick Rimando of Real Salt Lake are separated by 8 inches in height, but by only .07 goals-allowed per game this Major League Soccer season.
The 5-foot-9 Rimando is allowing one goal per game for league-leading RSL, while the 6-5 Gspurning has allowed 1.07 for the No. 2 Sounders.
“It’s good to see that there are so many different styles – and all of them can be successful,” Gspurning said after practice Wednesday. “That’s a great thing about goalkeeping.”
The two will face off Friday, when RSL visits CenturyLink Field. And while the top spot in MLS is at stake, the rivalry between the keepers is a friendly one.
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“I have a lot of respect for Nick as a person, and also as a keeper, of course,” Gspurning said. “He’s doing well so many years now. It’s always fun, and it gives you some other percentage of effort – if you see the other guy is doing well, then you don’t want to fall behind.”
Both are veteran keepers, and their résumés show little to separate them.
Rimando, 34, has 12 caps with the United States national team, and was fourth in MLS Goalkeeper of the Year voting last season. Gspurning, 32, has three caps with the Austrian national team and was third in 2012 MLS goalkeeper voting.
Seattle coach Sigi Schmid noted something else Gspurning, Rimando and many other successful goalkeepers have in common.
“Generally, when the players like the goalkeeper, they seem to work harder for the goalkeeper,” he said. “Michael is a likable guy; the guys work hard for him. Nick’s a likable guy; the guys work hard for him.
“From that standpoint then, they’re similar. Nick, his feet are very good – better than most goalkeepers – and he’s very comfortable playing that way. But then Michael has an advantage in terms of just his size, coming for crosses and dealing with those kinds of things. I think they’re both very, very good in their own way.”
National team members Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson are expected to return to Sounders for practice Thursday. Dempsey played 90 minutes Tuesday in the U.S. team’s 2-0 win over Mexico, while Johnson went 75 minutes and scored a goal before leaving after a hard fall. Neither has been ruled out of the RSL match. “They both say they feel pretty good, but we’ll see how they feel (Thursday) and we’ll make those decisions (then),” Schmid said. … Schmid also did not rule out midfielder Brad Evans, although he stressed the club doesn’t want to rush Evans back from a calf injury. … Sounders FC and Xbox have extended their jersey sponsorship agreement through the 2014 season. Xbox is the only jersey sponsor the club has had, but the agreement was set to expire at the end of this season. “They’re the perfect partner,” general manager Adrian Hanauer said. “We stayed in contact and ultimately it made sense for both parties. … Hopefully we can figure something out long-term from here.” … Hanauer said the club is leaning toward remaining in the MLS Reserve League next season before shifting to the operation of a USL-Pro club in 2015, probably based at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila.