Seattle Sounders FC has played almost five seasons without experiencing a goalkeeper controversy – until now.
From the expansion season of 2009 until his retirement after the 2011 season, Kasey Keller was the Sounders’ undisputed No. 1 keeper. Then Michael Gspurning took over, and his starting status had been equally unchallenged.
But after Seattle allowed five goals to Colorado and four to Vancouver in back-to-back games, coach Sigi Schmid on Friday was not prepared to say whether Gspurning or veteran reserve Marcus Hahnemann would start Sunday at Portland.
“We’ll talk a little more (Saturday) and we’ll decide,” Schmid said. “The decision that you make is what’s best for the team and the club. That’s how you make all your decisions.”
Goalkeeper coach Tom Dutra said one consideration is the state of Gspurning’s confidence.
“I think you have to worry about that any time you take nine in two games,” he said. “For sure, even the best goalkeepers are going to struggle with that. That’s a tough one to come back from. Whether the goals are your fault, not your fault, it’s still in the back of your mind. You’re the one picking the ball out of the back of the net, so it’s tough.”
But that raises the question of whether confidence could be further eroded by a benching – even a short-term one.
“Oh, man, that’s a tough one,” Dutra said. “What makes it better is a good performance in training, and what makes it better is a good performance in a game.”
Through his first 25 starts this season, Gspurning ranked among the top goalkeepers in Major League Soccer in goals-against average (1.02), wins (12) and shutouts (10). Two games later, his GGA has jumped to 1.28 while his wins and shutout totals haven’t budged.
No one with the Sounders thinks that is all Gspurning’s fault.
“Like I said to our team: Are we the team that went 14 games undefeated at home, or are we the team that’s taken two bad losses?” Schmid said. “Is Michael the goalkeeper who was averaging basically a goal against a game, or is he the guy who’s taken nine goals in two games? I think he’s the guy who has averaged a goal against a game. I think we’re the team that went 14 games undefeated at home. … But it’s a matter of us finding our form again.”
Hahnemann, 41, is a Seattle native who made over 300 appearances with English clubs Fulham, Reading and Wolverhampton. He has nine caps for the U.S. national team and was a member of the 2006 and 2010 World Cup teams.
He signed with the Sounders last season to back up Gspurning. He made two starts this season when Gspurning was injured, winning both games while allowing one goal.
Seattle goals leader Eddie Johnson has returned to the club after suffering a groin injury while away with the U.S. national team. Schmid said Johnson will not play Sunday, and he had no estimate of a possible return pending results from a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test. … Obafemi Martins (groin) was held out of practice Friday, but Schmid said “he should be ready” to face the Timbers. Clint Dempsey (hamstring) trained, but Schmid said it hasn’t yet been determined if he is ready for a starting assignment. … The Sounders will play in the Carolina Challenge Cup as part of their preparation for the 2014 season. The tournament will run Feb. 22-March 1 and will also feature MLS sides D.C. United and Houston Dynamo along with USL-Pro’s Charleston Battery.
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org/soccer