TUKWILA, Wash. – Presented with an offer to play for the Seattle Sounders, Michael Gspurning knew more than his club career hung in the balance.
Gspurning could either choose to stay in Europe and remain in contention for a spot on the Austrian national team or he could set out on a new path and try out MLS.
“I knew if I was leaving Europe, there wasn’t a great chance for me on the national team,” he said after a recent training session. “I made the decision and I’ve never regretted it, even if it means I never play in the national team again.”
In that sense, the move has worked out almost exactly as Gspurning imagined it would. Despite putting together one of the best statistical seasons in MLS history and outperforming every other goalkeeper in the Austrian player pool, Gspurning has not been contacted by the team about possibly rejoining them.
Heading into his second MLS season, Gspurning is instead focused on further establishing himself here.
“It was of course good that I had a great season and proved what quality I had, but now I have to prove it again,” Gspurning said. “Everybody expects more because I don’t have the bonus of being the new guy anymore.”
While improving on his league-leading .73 goals-against average will be a tall order, Gspurning knows the biggest area for improvement will be staying healthy. Last year, Gspurning missed 13 matches and saw the Sounders go 3-4-6 in his absence. He says his hip injury is no longer an issue and, just for good measure, he’s added some muscle to his lanky 6-foot-5 frame.
“I saw the American guys are very strong and wanted to keep up there,” Gspurning said.
Already one of the clubhouse leaders, he also stands to play an even bigger role in that department.
“He’s a respected part of the team and obviously one of the team leaders,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said. “I think we’re already further along in terms of our locker room [as compared to this point last year]. Guys aren’t learning about his leadership.”
If he keeps this up, maybe Austria won’t be able to ignore him much longer.