COMMERCE CITY, Colo. - There is little Kasey Keller has not seen or experienced during his remarkable career.
Keller has pitted his skills against the best finishers in the English Premier League and has become a fixture as the final line of defense for the U.S. national team.
Keller opened a new chapter of his career when he returned to his native Washington to lead the inaugural season of expansion Seattle Sounders FC and, as Colorado Rapids midfielder Nick LaBrocca learned in frustrating fashion on Saturday, Keller's skills hardly have eroded with age.
Keller produced saves against two golden chances by LaBrocca, allowing an injury-riddled Seattle team to escape Colorado with a 2-2 draw and retain its hold on second place in the Western Conference. It was the fourth consecutive draw for Sounders FC, who remains eight points behind first-place Chivas USA and one point ahead of third-place Houston.
Had Keller failed to make either stop against LaBrocca, Seattle likely would not have extended its unbeaten streak to five matches (1-0-4). Instead, Sounders FC return home to face Columbus next week riding a wave of momentum that seems improbable given the recent rash of injuries.
Keller, who finished with four saves, made his first stop against LaBrocca on a low shot during a one-on-one chance in stoppage time at the end of the first half, preserving a 1-1 tie. After the Rapids took a 2-1 edge early in the second half, Keller made another diving stop of a LaBrocca line drive launched from the right side of the penalty area, allowing Nate Jaqua to produce the equalizer in the 76th minute.
"I was very happy with the angle (on the second shot), and he would have had to do something special to beat me from there," Keller said. "You don't want to make his mind up for him. Don't be leaning one way. Don't do those things. Stand up and make him beat you, and luckily I was able to get my hands on it and get it over the bar.
"Injuries, and two of those (ties) we were a man down for almost the whole second half on both, and then two games were away from home. So for the most part, we're pretty happy with that. We really could have stole it tonight, which would have been a travesty for Colorado but would have been a lot of fun for us."
Things started inauspiciously for Seattle, which lost starting midfielder Osvaldo Alonso to a strained right quadriceps in the first minute, an injury he originally aggravated during warmups on a field that became soaked by pregame showers.
Alonso added his name to an injury list that already included midfielder Freddie Ljungberg (migraine headache issues), midfielder Brad Evans (ankle) and defender Zach Scott (abdominal strain). The latest injury setback failed to dissuade Sounders FC, though, who received the first goal of the match on a header by Fredy Montero in the 17th minute and remained in the ball game thanks to Keller's stellar effort.
"He's a phenomenal goalkeeper," Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid said. "When the game is 1-1 and you keep us in the game and don't allow us to go down 2-1, that keeps the guys in the game mentally. That's the reason he is Kasey Keller. That's the reason he's played so many games for the national team. That's the reason he played so many years in Europe, because he has the ability to do that.
"Goalkeepers sometimes get better with age. It's just timing, instincts, reacting and reading. He did a great job of standing up against LaBrocca, and when LaBrocca was about to pull the trigger, that's when he reacted."
The Rapids took a 2-1 lead early in the second half on Conor Casey's sixth goal of the season, but Sounders FC refused to fold on the road. Montero won a header battle with Rapids defender Kosuke Kimura in the box to set up the equalizer by Jaqua, who beat Colorado goalkeeper Matt Pickens for his second goal of the season.
Colorado outshot Sounders FC 12-7 and enjoyed a 10-1 advantage on corner kicks, but Keller's strong play kept the Rapids at bay.
"We were just a bit stagnant in the first half, and they really did a good job of coming at us," Jaqua said. "Then we were able to turn it around and get possession and find our rhythm. In the second half, at least towards the end there, we were able to create some stuff."
Pat Rooney is a contributor to MLSnet.com.