WASHINGTON, October 14, 2011 - I interviewed Kasey Keller in the locker room of London club Millwall FC in October of 1992. The American goalie was just beginning his amazing career in the second tier of English soccer.
That career comes to an end in the next few weeks. Over 60,000 fans will see Keller, 41, play in his last regular season home game for the Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field on Saturday when Seattle takes on San Jose.
Back at Millwall, Keller had just won the man-of-the-match honors in a game against Cambridge on a cold and wet day in south east London. As the janitors came round with their mops, Keller and I were the only ones left in the locker room, as the other players had all rushed up to the club bar for a drink.
Keller had pulled off an amazing save in the game to preserve a 2-2 against Cambridge.
Playing big-time soccer in England was a dream come true for Keller, who started kicking a soccer ball around when he was nine and became a soccer fan after watching the Seattle Sounders of the old North American Soccer League.
“The competition level here is very high,” Keller said. “You have to get the job done, day in and day out, playing 50 to 60 games a year and knowing that if you make a mistake, you could be off the team next week. At college I could have a few bad games but still keep my place. But playing in England, the pressure is always on.”
After Millwall, Keller went on to play at numerous major clubs in England, Spain and Germany, including Leicester (1996-99), Rayo Vallecano (1999-01), Tottenham (2001-05), Southampton (2004), Borussia Moenchengladbach (2005-07) and Fulham (2007-08). Keller became the goalie for the United States national team, starting for the U.S. team at the 1998 and 2006 World Cups, and the 1996 Olympics.
After his time overseas, Keller joined the Seattle Sounders of Major League Soccer three years ago and helped the club win three straight U.S. Open Cup titles. A native of Olympia, about 90 minutes south of Seattle, Keller has been a great ambassador of the sport and his presence in the on the field will be missed.
As I left Keller on that cold day in England nearly 20 years ago, I spoke to Millwall coach Mike McCarthy on the way out the door.
“He’s playing excellent soccer and grabbing the headlines; along as he doesn’t believe them he’ll be fine.” said McCarthy.
Keller never did let the headlines get to him. He’s been the perfect professional in a stunning career. Good luck Kasey.
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