To hear Michael Gspurning tell it, there’s really only one reason he’s no longer playing for the Seattle Sounders: the league-mandated salary budget.
The Sounders were more than happy to bring Gspurning back for a third season -- something a team official confirmed -- but they weren’t willing to do so at his option price. Gspurning ultimately turned down the Sounders’ offer of a new three-year contract because it would have required him to take a significant pay cut, according to sources.
“Of course everyone knows how much I liked playing in Seattle,” Gspurning recently told MLSsoccer.com. “But I had two great seasons. I solved the problem of what would happen after Kasey [Keller] retired. It’s not working that I could sign a new deal for less money. It meant I wouldn’t respect myself or my performance.”
Gspurning, who is currently back in his native Austria, said he harbors no ill feelings over the circumstances surrounding his departure, expressing an understanding that “it’s just business.”
WATCH: Gspurning's playoff red card vs. Rapids
“I understand them and they understand me,” Gspurning said. “I leave the team behind me, but I know I made a good impact on the club. For this reason, maybe in a couple years if the salary cap is higher or many years after I want to come back to Seattle in whatever position, there is always an open door I think. This is also what the club told me.
“If there was no salary cap I probably would have signed a new three-year deal and everybody would have been happy. These are the rules, the salary cap is here to make an impact on the teams to balance them out. Everyone knows Seattle can spend more money, but they have to respect the rules.”
Despite being asked to do the impossible -- replace a legend in Keller -- Gspurning was mostly up to the task. In fact, the 32-year-old finished his Sounders career as the club's all-time leader in goals against average (1.04) and playoff victories (three). His shutout percentage (36 percent) and record (24-13-11) were also better than Keller’s.
The only real blotch on his resume was the way his Sounders career ended. Over his final five matches, Gspurning allowed 13 goals, including three in his final game against the Portland Timbers. He plans on putting that bad stretch behind him and latching on with a team in Europe.
“I know that I was one of the best 'keepers the league,” said Gspurning, who leaves MLS second only to Jimmy Nielsen in career goals against average. “I know other MLS teams would have shown interest, but for them it’s the same. They don’t want to spend so much money on a 'keeper. It’s fine with me.
“We’ll see what happens with me. Most likely in Europe, but I’m always looking for adventures and something new. I’m very confident I’ll find a good new home for the family and myself. One thing is for sure, I’ll miss my time in Seattle because we had an absolutely fantastic time and I’m so grateful of how the people treated me there.”
Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com.