Photo courtesy of Seattle Sounders FC
RENTON, Wash. — The Seattle Sounders' fun-loving ways are starting to rub off on Michael Gspurning.
In his first media scrum in Seattle this past weekend, the Sounders' new goalkeeper recalled an episode a couple of weeks ago when the players took to the field after a team meeting for an impromptu game to 11 goals.
After the initial match was finished, no one wanted to stop – so they kept playing. For another 90 minutes.
For a veteran accustomed to the stoic professionalism of the Greek league, such a random display of enthusiasm signified his new team’s hunger to succeed.
“I really can say I have played many years of professional soccer and this is really unbelievable,” Gspurning told reporters in well-polished English, joking that it’s a lot easier to do conditioning drills when the team’s spirit is good.
The 30-year-old Austrian was signed to take the place of another veteran of the European professional leagues, former captain Kasey Keller.
Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said he doesn’t like to dwell on the players who aren’t with the team. Nevertheless, he admitted that it was a little different opening training camp last Friday without Keller. If a session lacked the proper intensity, Keller certainly wouldn’t mind asking his teammates to up the tempo.
“You know, you don’t hear those shouts sometimes,” Schmid said. “Kasey’s great. We’re going to miss him, but I’m happy we were able to find Michael because he’s a veteran goalkeeper, and at times a little quieter.”
“It would have been interesting having Michael and Kasey here at the same time because they would have competed,” Schmid added, “because that would have been the nature of the two of them.”
Now, as Keller takes his vocal talents into the broadcast booth for the 2012 season, his Seattle teammates must get accustomed to Gspurning.
The early impressions of Gspurning are positive. The 6-foot-5 goalkeeper appears comfortable with the ball at his feet – especially for someone his size – and is able to distribute ably on the ground or through the air.
It’s still too early to tell how effectively Gspurning will organize his back line, especially with projected starters Jeff Parke and Adam Johansson still with their national teams. However, he appears to be the unquestioned top choice among the five goalkeepers in camp – former San Jose goalkeeper Andrew Weber and Lyn Oslo veteran Tyrel Lacey join Sounders 2011 draft picks Josh Ford and Bryan Meredith.
Unless unforeseen circumstances force someone else into action, Gspurning will be in the net when Seattle open the season against Santos Laguna in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals on March 7. He alluded to the need to “fix” some issues with the team before the first match, but he can’t wait to get going.
“Let’s start the season,” Gspurning said eagerly. “It’s good to feel the ball again and it’s time to work.”