CARSON, Calif. – For all the Seattle Sounders’ youth and blazing speed, one of the Los Angeles Galaxy’s toughest challenges will come from a 40-year-old.
Veteran goalkeeper Kasey Keller, one of two active MLS players born in the 1960s, will pose a challenge in the Sounders’ goal when the Galaxy and Seattle meet in the first round of the MLS Cup playoffs. They open the series on Sunday at Qwest Field (8 pm ET, ESPN2).
A four-time World Cup veteran and former professional in England, Germany, and Spain, Keller is a stalwart for Seattle and brings stability to the team’s backline and gives Seattle one of the most experienced goalkeepers in the league.
“He’s very intimidating because he has all those caps and he played in Europe,” Galaxy forward Edson Buddle said. “He’s a great goalkeeper but we’ll be up to the task of playing against him.”
[inline_node:322126]Keller is no stranger to several of Galaxy players and coaches. Galaxy coach Bruce Arena named Keller to the 2002 and 2006 World Cup squads and started Keller in all three of the United States’ games in Germany 2006. Keller has also played with such Galaxy players as Landon Donovan, Eddie Lewis and Gregg Berhalter, as well as assistant coach Cobi Jones.
Also a veteran of the 1990 and 1998 World Cups, Keller’s strengths have changed over the years, Arena said.
“In his earlier days he was a very athletic, a great shot blocker and he remains that today,” he said. “But at this point in time it’s experience. He’s been playing at a very high level for about 20 years.”
Keller played in every game this season and was 45 minutes short of having played in every minute of the regular season. He left an April 22 match against FC Dallas at halftime due to injury, but did not miss any additional games because of it.
Additionally, Keller was in goal for Seattle’s 2-1 win over Columbus in the U.S. Open Cup final. Keller was also in goal during last year’s Open Cup final and has thus already led Seattle to a pair of championships.
What makes him so special, Berhalter said, is his strength and agility which are just as strong now as ever.
“His reflexes are one of the best I’ve seen,” Berhalter said. “He makes the save that leaves your jaw dropping and you can’t believe he just made that save. Costa Rica at home, a qualifier in Utah (in 2005) comes to mind where he made some saves where you’re just like, ‘Get out of here. I can’t believe it.’ He definitely has his strengths, you know, and we’ll take that into consideration.”
If and when Galaxy players get the ball past Seattle’s defense, simply firing a shot blindly at goal might not be enough.
“When you’re shooting at goal you want to place it a little more because you know if it’s not a great effort it’s probably not going to go in,” Berhalter said. “So those are things that have an effect on the players.”
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