TUKWILA, Wash. — For the second straight game, the Seattle Sounders have declined to name their starting goalkeeper ahead of their match against FC Dallas on Saturday (2:30 pm ET, NBC).
Marcus Hahnemann replaced Michael Gspurning last Sunday, allowing one goal in a loss to the Portland Timbers at JELD-WEN Field. The 41-year-old veteran of the English Premier League only faced two shots and had a mostly quiet evening after Gspurning had given up nine goals in his two previous games, many of which came on one-on-one breakaways.
The two goalkeepers shared much of the work in training this week.
“It’s the response we want to see,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid told reporters on Thursday when asked how he thought Gspurning looked in training. “He came out today, he competed and battled, as did Marcus. That’s what I expect from both of them.”
Until his benching against the Timbers, Gspurning had been the unquestioned starter for his entire two-season run with the Sounders. A year ago, he was third among the Goalkeeper of the Year voting and posted the third-lowest goals-against average in league history (.73). Even until his recent struggles, he was among the league leaders in goals-against-average (1.02), save percentage (.713) and shutouts (10) this season.
“Of course I’m not happy with the situation, but as long as I think about it, I don’t want to make a comment on the decision,” Gspurning told reporters. “It’s up to the coach. I just can say I’m proud of what I’ve done in these two years to now, with the personal success I’ve had and with the team. This stuff didn’t change at all. I have established myself as one of the best ‘keepers, I think, in the league, and you expect from a goalkeeper with this quality that he will make a couple of saves sometimes that we don’t expect. I expect this, too, so these two games I didn’t make the saves.
“I don’t have to talk about the last goal [against the Vancouver Whitecaps, above], I take the responsibility, but this is now over,” he added. “I can’t change it, and I’m looking forward. As I’ve said before, it doesn’t mean anything about my quality.”
Schmid told the media that he was looking at the change more as a way of giving Gspurning a mental break than as a demotion. The same message was apparently passed along to Gspurning.
“I had a conversation with Sigi, and he explained his thoughts,” Gspurning said. "I have to accept them. In the end, maybe you come out stronger from this. It’s a situation where, yeah, you have to prove character and, if you’re able, to put yourself behind and do the best for the team. I’ve tried to do this, but to be honest, I don’t see any good thing about it at the moment that I’m not playing.
“As long as it’s a break, then it’s OK.”