Off-the-wall Questions and Answers, Queries and Anecdotes from U.S. Men’s National Team goalkeeper Kasey Keller.
Baseball has Casey at the Bat. But for U.S. Soccer, it’s Kasey in the Net. The dean of active U.S. goalkeepers at age 33, the native of the Pacific Northwest has criss-crossed Europe as one of the most successful Men’s National Team players overseas. But no matter where his pro career has planted him, it hasn’t stopped him from making it back to the States in time to help the U.S. to glory at the CONCACAF Gold Cup, where he has compiled an impressive record of 11-2-2 with 10 shutouts and a paltry 0.46 Goals Against Average in 15 career matches dating back to the 1996 tournament and including his performance in the team’s perfect 3-0 record this month in the 2003 edition.
In ’96, he helped the MNT finish third. In ’98, he took over for an injured Brad Friedel to help the U.S. finish second, single-handedly stoning Romario and a talented Brazil team to advance to the final. Finally in 2002, Keller got to raise the enormous trophy with his teammates as they rolled through the competition. The title, the team’s first since 1991, set the stage for the team’s overwhelming success at the 2002 World Cup, a tournament that Keller had to watch from the bench after a slight injury in the days leading up to the team’s first game likely cost him the starting spot. But now in 2003, with Korea a distant memory, he’s back in form to help the U.S. to another top three finish.
Center Circle: What is it about you and standout performances at the Gold Cup?
Kasey Keller: "I don't know. Preparation, I guess. It's always nice to perform in a tournament that means something."
CC: What's the most important trait a goalkeeper can possess? Decisiveness? Focus? Overall experience?
KK: "I think the mark of a great 'keeper is the ability to come up with a save when the team needs it most. There are a lot of good goalkeepers that don't take any risks, or do anything spectacular, and subsequently make few mistakes. When you come up with a save at key times in a game, it can directly influence the outcome."
CC: Who are your goalkeeping idols?
KK: "I always liked (former Northern Ireland international) Pat Jennings, and now I get to work with him on a weekly basis at Tottenham. He's a great guy, and somebody that’s had such a long and successful career for both club and country. He's a great guy to talk to after something’s happened in a game. If you've done something stupid in a game, he’s done it twice. If you've done something great in a game, he's done it twice. So he's a good person to talk to about how things are going, regardless of how things are going."
CC: Describe the emotions you went through and how you handled having to watch the team's success in Korea from the bench?
KK: "There were a lot of different emotions going on. Personally, I’ve been able to put it behind me. I knew when I signed for Spurs in 2001 that if I didn't get an opportunity to play, I was opening the door for that possibility. It's something that I was prepared for, but obviously it's always different going through it."
CC: How did it compare to being out of the MNT mix early in your career in the two years leading up to the '94 World Cup?
KK: "Back then, it felt like the right thing to do. I was in the driver's seat because I was playing professionally week in and week out, while Brad and Tony were basically fighting just to get to play national team friendlies. That's basically what Bora told me. I've heard a lot of things, but I don't know what truly happened."
CC: How do you think Tim Howard will fare in the Premier League, especially with the pressure that comes with playing for ManU, if he's thrown in there as the #1 keeper?
KK: "It's an impossible question. There are a lot of different things involved. I hope he goes in with the right attitude, and is willing to put in the time and effort necessary. I'm sure he will. He's going to have to take advantage of his opportunities. At Man U, they don't wait around very long. When you get your shot, you have to take it. That starts with doing well in training."
CC: Now to the non-soccer stuff. Seeing how Ozzfest probably won't be making it to the U.K. any time soon, how do you satisfy your "jones" for seeing your favorite bands like Slipknot while over in England?
KK: "I was at Download Festival from May 31-June 1, which is a very similar lineup to Ozzfest . It's a shame that my friends Disturbed are playing in Ozzfest and I couldn't go, especially with an open invitation. The great thing about London is there is a great rock scene, and I can probably see more bands there than I would in America."
CC: What bands or albums are getting repeat spins in your headphones lately?
KK: "I've been listening to the new Godsmack. Also the new Hed (pe). Metallica did a special appearance at the Download Festival, and I was sitting on the side of the stage, so I've gone back to some old Metallica again."
CC: Now that the twins have reached age 6, have you and Kristin stopped dressing them alike, or did you never do that in the first place?
KK: "Considering they were a boy and girl, that would have been quite demented."
CC: And finally, tell us one interesting thing about Lacey, Wash., or your childhood in rural Wash., that does NOT have to do with growing up on an egg farm?
KK: "I actually grew in Olympia, despite the myth perpetuated by you guys. Basically to name drop, I was having a conversation with (Foo Fighters vocalist/guitarist) Dave Grohl, who lived in Olympia for a year while he was in Nirvana. We were trying to explain to his girlfriend the strange social dynamic of Olympia, Wash. For example, in the same bar on a given night you could have a group of hippie students from Evergreen State College, a big punk scene, and a group of loggers from the northwest. They'd be looking quite strangely at each other in the beginning of the night, and by the end everyone is buddies and shooting pool together."
Table of Contents
1) Armchair Midfielder (Dissecting the 2003 WWC Final Draw)
2) In Threes (w/ WNT forward Abby Wambach)
3) Mark That Calendar (MNT vs. Costa Rica – July 26, 8 p.m. ET – Galavison)
4) Queries & Anecdotes (w/ MNT goalkeeper Kasey Keller)
5) FAN Point/Counterpoint (Who will win the 2003 CONCACAF Gold Cup?)
6) "You Don’t Know Jack (Marshall)" (U.S. Gold Cup Trivia)
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KK: "I think it's been a good partnership. The funny part about it is, a lot of what happens in the metal scenes, especially in the 70's and 80's, started in England but was far more successful in America. It's been a good mix." Is there an MLS team that you would like to play for if you happen to end your playing career here in the States?
KK: "There are several I wouldn't mind playing for. Everything I've heard about L.A.'s set up makes me think it would be fun to be a part of. I like Columbus, too. Those two are the most professional in terms of training and soccer specific facilities. I'm still waiting for a team to spring up in the Northwest. It's always been a goal of mine to come back and finish my career in the States. Fingers crossed that there is an opportunity down the road…" Of all the stops you've made in your extensive pro career in Europe, what has been the best team situation that you've been a part of (collectively, on and off the field)?
KK: "It's tough to say. Within a team, the situation changes every year. My second or third year at Milwall, we had a great group of friends. It went without saying that after the game you were picking a restaurant and everyone was going out. Leicester was fun for different reasons. The lifestyle in Spain was certainly hard to give up. And now in London, we have a great group of friends that we spend time with. It's impossible to distinguish which is best." What do you think your single greatest performance has been for the USA?
KK: "(Versus) Brazil in 1998. I was standing on my head that day. Honestly, at the time I wasn't feeling well. I had flown in the day before, and we didn't get to train because the weather was so bad. We even thought the game might get cancelled. I made a save early in the game, and things snowballed from there. Also, I was coming off a great run at Leicester. Luck, or whatever you want to call it, goes in streaks, and I was in the middle of a streak."