SEATTLE — When Michael Gspurning and his wife visited Seattle in early August, the lush green surroundings reminded him enough of his native Austria for him to give the Sounders serious consideration. As the months went by and talks between the two sides intensified, the 30-year-old goalkeeper had seen enough of the area to make the move to the Pacific Northwest.
Although his visit only lasted a few days, the professionalism shown by the Sounders FC organization made a positive impression.
“Everything impressed me,” Gspurning told reporters on a conference call on Wednesday. “From that moment, I was thinking that this was a possibility for me to play professional soccer and to make the next step in my career. Fortunately, we continued to the speaking and after a while we ... were ready to sign the contract."
With the retirement of Kasey Keller, Gspurning will have the opportunity to become Seattle’s long-term starting goalkeeper. During his visit, the 30-year-old recalled telling Sounders GM Adrian Hanauer that if he played for the Sounders “for five years, that would be great.”
With Keller’s impending retirement known since before the 2011 season, the club has worked for the past year to find a new goalkeeper. The 6-foot-5 Gspurning emerged as the team’s choice from a pool that included Seattle native and Everton backup Marcus Hahnemann.
When it comes to stepping into Keller’s shadow, Gspurning paid homage to the retiring legend.
“If you know soccer, you know the name Kasey Keller,” Gspurning said. “He played in the biggest leagues of Europe and of course he’s a legend in Seattle because it’s his hometown.
“If I play like I did the last year in Greece, we will have a lot of success also,” Gspurning added. “In Seattle, it’s only up to me to bring my [best] performances.”
Coach Sigi Schmid confirmed that the Sounders did hold discussions with Hahnemann, but the league’s allocation process added uncertainty. As a returning national team player, Hahnemann would have been subject to the league’s allocation process. If another team claimed him, the Sounders would have been forced to meet that team’s price to obtain the goalkeeper. In the end, the club decided that Discovery was a safer route for securing a new goalkeeper.
During Wednesday's teleconference, Schmid said he expected current goalkeepers Bryan Meredith and Josh Ford to be part of the team’s future. However, he also mentioned that the club could bring in another veteran goalkeeper, saying that a few backup-caliber goalkeepers with MLS experience may come available this winter.
Gspurning’s contract with Greek club Skoda Xanthi expired this winter, making Major League Soccer and its calendar-year schedule a good option. The Austrian originally learned of the Sounders after Schmid worked his European network for possible goalkeeper options.
Andrew Winner covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com