SEATTLE — Giving up a goal in the 87th minute is tough. When that goal is a direct result of a mistake by arguably one the greatest goalkeeper in United States history, it’s even tougher.
After Seattle’s Kasey Keller muffed Josué Martínez’s shot to gift Saprissa a 2-1 victory in the CONCACAF Champions League—and eventual qualification into the CCL quarterfinals—his teammates and coaches were quick to defend the veteran captain.
“[Keller has] saved us too many times—I'm not going to get on his case here,” said Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid. “He's a pro. Nobody's more disappointed than he is. He'll sort it out and it's good to get out of the way now."
Nate Jaqua, the scorer of Seattle’s only goal, echoed that sentiment.
“Kasey has been a rock back there for us and it's just one of those things that happened,” he said. “It’s good it happened in this game and not some other game."
With just one regular-season match left before the playoffs begin, the Sounders hope their veteran goalkeeper will find his form again. Keller was originally slated to be the backup to Terry Boss in Tuesday’s meaningless Champions League encounter, but Schmid confirmed that a hip flexor injury suffered by Boss in Monday’s training session and “another little thing” that came up today kept Boss on the bench.
In stepped Keller, who had made three saves on the night before the fateful miscue. The veteran 'keeper did not want to speak to the media after the match, but relayed through a club spokesman that he should have made the save.
[inline_node:321279]It’s the third soft goal he’s let in in 2010. Against Los Angeles, Keller allowed a shot from Jovan Kirovski to glance off his gloves and into the net. Against D.C. United, he misplayed a shot from Chris Pontius just before the World Cup break. Then, on Tuesday against Saprissa, he allowed a goal eerily similar to the first two.
In each instance, the ball broke through Keller’s hands and rolled up over his fingers on its way into the net.
Looking past Keller’s mistake, Schmid said the Sounders did not play their best game. He said that the club let Saprissa get too comfortable in possession and should have pressured more.
Jaqua agreed with his boss, saying that the team’s performance left a little to be desired.
Even though Seattle had already been eliminated from the competition, the Sounders wanted to win. A second victory in the Champions League would have salvaged some pride from the tournament, which did not go Seattle’s way.
"I think everyone is disappointed,” said Roger Levesque, who started and played 76 minutes for Seattle. “Every time this team steps on the field, regardless of who is out there, we expect to win and expect to perform up to a certain standard that we have showed over the last couple months.”
But among the negative, Schmid found some silver lining. With the success Seattle has tasted over the past weeks—a US Open Cup triumph and five consecutive wins in league play—the coach thought the loss may serve as a wakeup call.
“It's good to get slapped in the face right before the [MLS Cup] Playoffs are about to begin so everyone is reminded what that feels like,” Schmid said.
Seattle will now hit the road for their final match of the season against Houston. The date and time for Seattle’s first playoff match are set—Oct. 31 at 5 p.m. PT—but the opponent depends on this weekend’s league results.