Kasey Keller is at the top of Major League Soccer in wins, games and minutes played this season.
He is tied for third in shutouts and is fourth in saves. Among goalkeepers with 15 or more appearances, he is first in save percentage and tied for third in goals-against average.
So why is he retiring?
“To go out on my terms,” Keller said. “I look at the calendar and I see that I’m going to be 42 next month. At some stage, it’s all going to come to an end very rapidly. And I just don’t want that to happen in the middle of a season. I just don’t want to not be able to train, not be able to play, not be able to perform at the level that I’m used to, that you’re used to, that the club, the fans, that everybody is used to, and be stumbling around out there because of my name and that kind of stuff. I think it just feels like it’s the right time.”
Sounders FC chose its game tonight against San Jose as the right time to honor the long career that took Keller from an Olympia egg farm to the University of Portland, the U.S. national team, the great leagues of Europe, Sounders FC and to his current status as one of the great soccer players this country has produced.
Fans have responded, as the largest crowd ever to watch the Sounders in a league game – either MLS or NASL – will gather at CenturyLink Field.
This won’t be Keller’s final game – he hopes that won’t come until Nov. 20 in the MLS Cup final. This won’t even be his final home game, as the Sounders will play host to a CONCACAF Champions League match next week and are assured of at least one home playoff game next month.
But the organization saw the final MLS regular-season home game as a fitting time to pay tribute. Forty thousand Kasey Keller captain’s armbands will be distributed, and there will be an on-field ceremony after the final whistle.
Keller thinks the timing is right.
“What’s nice is that we have the playoff thing. It’s not like we need to win this thing,” he said. “That would be a little bit tricky if you had all this stuff going on and we needed to win these two games to get into the playoffs or something and you’ve got this kind of thing distracting from it.
“It’s really worked out well for everybody. … It’s an honor. And I’m just proud that the club feels that I deserve this kind of attention.”
The Sounders already have clinched a spot in the quarterfinals of the MLS Cup playoffs. Meanwhile, the Earthquakes’ playoff hopes already have crumbled.
“It’s one of those weird situations,” Keller said. “San Jose comes into the game really not playing for anything. So there’s zero pressure on them. There’s a whole lot of hoopla going on for us. We’ve got to get focused and ready to play against a team that really has nothing to lose, and sometimes that can be dangerous.
“We’re disappointed in how we played the other day against Philly, and we want to put that right as well. And also we want to get into that form for the playoffs.”
Coach Sigi Schmid believes the Sounders will find their focus and use it as a way to honor both Keller and the crowd of more than 62,000.
“We haven’t really talked about it a lot in terms of it being Kasey’s last regular-season game,” he said. “He’s got friends on the team, and I’m confident everybody is going to be highly motivated in the right way to send him off in that particular game.
“I think all of that – the crowd, and it being that particular game – serves as motivation for us.”
San Jose at Seattle, 7:30 p.m., Fox Soccer Channel, 97.3-FM
Preview capsule, B7 SOUNDERS GAMEDAY
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (7-11-14; 35 PTS) AT SOUNDERS FC (16-7-9; 57 PTS)
7:30 P.M., CENTURYLINK FIELD
TV: Fox Soccer Channel. RADIO: 97.3-FM; 99.3-FM (Spanish).
CLUB LEADERS: For San Jose – G 11, Chris Wondolowski; A 6, Steven Beitashour; S 97, Wondolowski; SOG 44, Wondolowski; GAA 1.29, Jon Busch. For Seattle – G 11, Fredy Montero; A 12, Mauro Rosales; S 99, Montero; SOG 40, Montero; GAA 1.09, Kasey Keller.
HEAD TO HEAD: Seattle leads 3-2-1 overall and 2-1 in Seattle. The road team has taken points in the last three meetings. The teams played to a 2-2 draw April 2 at San Jose.
NOTES: More than 62,000 tickets have been sold for this game, which will be followed by a tribute to Keller, who is retiring after this season. … Rosales (knee) is expected to be on the 18-man roster. Defender Jeff Parke (concussion) is out. … San Jose is 1-0-3 over its past four games. Seattle is 3-1 but looking to rebound from a 2-0 loss to Philadelphia last weekend. … The Sounders already have clinched a spot in the MLS Cup quarterfinals, while San Jose has been eliminated from playoff contention. … Today’s winner will claim the 2011 Heritage Cup competition between the clubs retaining their historic NASL nicknames. If there is a draw, the first tiebreaker is away goals. … Defender James Riley came to Seattle from San Jose in the expansion draft. … Wondolowski is the defending MLS Golden Boot champion and is tied for the league lead this season. … The Quakes lead MLS with 62 yellow cards. … Sounders Osvaldo Alonso and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado are one caution away from a one-game suspension for yellow-card accumulation. ... The referee is Michael Kennedy.
QUOTABLE: “It’s going to be work for us to keep (Wondolowski) off the board because he’s on good form right now, and he’s feeling it. As you see with all goal-scorers, they’re a little bit streaky, and he’s on a good streak right now.” – coach Sigi Schmid.
NEXT: The Sounders conclude CONCACAF Champions League group play at 7 p.m. Tuesday at CenturyLink Field against Monterrey, Mexico. They end the MLS regular season Oct. 22 at Chivas USA.
Don Ruiz, staff writer