Seattle signs former U.S. goalkeeper Keller
SEATTLE -- Kasey Keller has the chance to fulfill a lifelong dream of finishing his soccer career in his home country and near his hometown.
The former U.S. star goalkeeper signed with Seattle Sounders FC on Thursday, the second player the expansion team has locked up for its inaugural Major League Soccer season in 2009. Keller, a native of the Olympia area about 60 miles south, has played all but one year of his professional career in some of Europe's top leagues.
"There were different times where I was close to coming back to MLS," said the 38-year-old Keller, who played most recently with Fulham of the English Premier League. "But D.C.? That isn't home. That's a four- or five-hour plane ride. Florida? I might as well stay in Europe.
"Now the idea of coming home is official," Keller said.
As a former U.S. national team player entering the league, Keller is subject to entering MLS via allocation rankings. As an expansion team, Seattle had the No. 1 allocation ranking, which it used to acquire Keller.
Seattle earlier signed forward Sebastien LeToux, who plays for the Seattle Sounders in the USL First Division.
Keller has been on four U.S. World Cup squads. He also captained the 1996 U.S. Olympic team, and was the MVP of the 1998 CONCACAF Gold Cup, a tournament in which he shut out Brazil, 1-0. He earned 102 international caps for the U.S. team, winning 53 games in goal and logging 47 shutouts.
But most of the time he was in Europe, playing with teams in the English Premier League, Germany's Bundesliga and Spain's La Liga.
"There are four pro leagues in the world that every professional player wants to play in, and I've been fortunate enough to play in three of them," Keller said. "Hopefully, in 20 or 30 years, MLS will be on par with those. It's only been around for (13) years. I've played for teams that started in 1885."
The Sounders are pleased with their acquisition.
"One of the best ways to have an attacking style of play is to have offensive players who are confident in their defense and in their goalkeeper," Sounders FC general manager Adrian Hanauer said. "If you believe you're going to have a (shutout) and not give up goals, it gives you confidence to go forward and score goals."
When his season with Borussia Moenchengladbach in the German Bundesliga ended in 2007, Keller said he contemplated retirement. He ultimately returned to the EPL with Fulham for one season, which ended this past spring.
The 6-foot-2 Keller is slated to play for the Sounders for two years and possibly move into the front office thereafter. But he wouldn't rule out playing beyond those two years.
"Goalkeepers have won World Cups at 40," he said. "Let's get these two years out of the way, and then let's assess that."