Keller "humbled" by Seattle crowd, primed for playoffs
SEATTLE — Kasey Keller’s career is so full of highlights that he hardly even tries to pick out the best ones anymore.
After his performance on Saturday in front of 64,140 at CenturyLink Field — the vast majority of whom were there to see Keller, 41, play his final regular-season home game — it’s safe to say this one will stand out.
Keller, who has announced that he will retire after this season, made seven saves and kept the Sounders in the game long enough for his teammates to pull off a 2-1 comeback victory over the San Jose Earthquakes.
WATCH HIGHLIGHTS: Seattle 2, San Jose 1
“I’m just humbled,” Keller said about the whole experience. “I’m humbled not just for what the club has done for me and given me the opportunity to come home and finish my career back home in something that is just so incredibly special. You can ask my friends who were able to fly out, guys who’ve played around the world, and they just can’t believe it. They just are so proud of what’s going on here in Seattle and I’m just proud to be a small piece of it.”
After the match, the Sounders honored Keller during an on-field ceremony. Past US national team comrades Brian McBride and Claudio Reyna joined numerous people involved in the Sounders organization to pay tribute to Keller. He was given several gifts, including a pair of bronzed goalkeeper gloves and a motorcycle.
WATCH: Postmatch Ceremonies
At one point, Sounders general manager and part owner Adrian Hanauer asked Keller if he was really set on retiring. Much to the chagrin of the record crowd — the third largest to ever witness a standalone MLS game — Keller replied, “Yeah, I’m positive.”
It was the only moment of the night that didn’t follow a storybook script.
Although the Sounders fell behind early on Chris Wondolowski’s 15th goal of the season — which moved him into a tie at the top of the for the Golden Boot chart — that only served to set the stage for another impressive comeback.
But for once, the goalkeeper’s efforts trumped the eventual goals. In the 65th minute, Sounders defender Patrick Ianni made a poor pass that forced Keller well off his line in order to beat Khari Stephenson to the ball. Wondolowski was able to get to the loose ball first and fired off a quick shot. Keller made a diving save, but the rebound went out to Simon Dawkins, who fired another shot on goal. Again, Keller made the diving stop and then poked the ball away just before Wondolowski could get to it.
The sequence sent the crowd into a wild celebration and sparked the entire Sounders team. Not that Keller wanted it to go that way.
“I would have much preferred to sit here, have us win 4-0 and I sat back there and took a couple goal kicks,” Keller said. “That would have been the ideal game for me.
“What we’re trying to achieve is to get ourselves in good form for the playoffs. Confidence comes with results. We don’t want to go into the last game with Chivas having lost two games at home.”
After that sequence, the Sounders offense roared to life. Mauro Rosales, in his first game back from a MCL injury suffered on Sept. 17, provided the assist on Sammy Ochoa’s first MLS goal in the 82nd minute. And five minutes later, Fredy Montero struck to give the Sounders the lead. It was Montero’s 12th goal of the season, and the goal completed the Sounders’ seventh comeback victory of the season.
“We know we can score at any point in the game,” Sounders midfielder Brad Evans said. “We’re a 90-minute team. That’s something we didn’t have last year, that’s for sure. Last year at this time, we probably wouldn’t have pulled out the victory. There’s something to be said for that.”
The Sounders are also hoping this new found fortitude will serve them well in the playoffs, the one place where neither the Sounders nor Keller have had much luck during the past two years.
Results like this one, while ultimately meaningless in the standings, just might herald better days ahead when the pressure is really on. Saturday night might have marked the final regular-season home match for Keller, but he knows his playing days aren’t over yet.
“I’m used to a European system where the last game is the last game but now it’s playoffs and you don’t know when it’s going to be and let’s hope it’s in November in L.A,” Keller said. “That’s what we’re all hoping for because I think we would sell out Home Depot Center on our own. I think our fans would fly down and be there so I’m excited for that prospect.”