SEATTLE – Michael Gspurning sat in his locker, took a deep breath and prepared himself for what surely was an interview he preferred not to give.
The Seattle Sounders goalkeeper had just been shown a red card for handling the ball outside the penalty area, reducing his team to 10 men while defending a 1-0 lead in a Knockout Round playoff game.
Much to his relief, the Sounders had held on and even added an insurance goal in a 2-0 win over the Colorado Rapids on Wednesday, advancing them to a dream matchup with the Portland Timbers in the Western Conference Semifinals.
An apologetic smile curled across his face as he tried to explain the inexplicable.
“Sometimes, goalkeepers have to make decisions in split seconds,” the Austrian said. “It happened with [Rapids 'keeper Clint] Irwin [who earned a yellow card for a collision with Clint Dempsey on a venture outside his box in the second half] and it happened with me. I just wanted to be ready if the ball was bouncing low.
"We talked about it at halftime that they were trying to chip balls over the defense. I wanted to be ready and make the step forward. It bounced a little higher than I expected, and I thought, ‘OK, I’m not too far from the box, so I’ll make a few quick steps back and catch it.’ I think I missed one step back. It is like it is.”
There was no official explanation, but Gspurning was convinced the red card was only for the hand ball, not for shoving Rapids forward Edson Buddle.
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“He was coming to me, and I defended the ball,” Gspurning said. “I don’t know what’s going on then. I didn’t do anything but protect the ball.”
Gspurning, who was starting just his second game since being benched for two games after allowing nine goals during a two-game stretch, was especially disappointed that he’d have to miss at least one match against the Timbers. If there was any solace to take, it was from the knowledge that he has a capable backup in Marcus Hahnemann.
Hahnemann, a Seattle-area native, will get a chance to fulfill a dream of his own.
“It’s everything,” the 41-year-old World Cup veteran said. “It’s my hometown – a chance to play in the playoffs is amazing. This is one of those things, last year when I came back in August, I never thought I’d have a chance to play for the Sounders. Now I get to play in a playoff game. It’s an amazing feeling.”