A regular Q&A with Sounders FC goalkeeper Kasey Keller

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Kasey Keller talks to seattletimes.com sports producer Bob Wickwire about the European game, living in a castle in Germany, driving on the autobahn and much more.

Question: Do you follow the European game as fan?

Kasey Keller: Yes and no, because I lived it so much. I’ll watch a big game, but I also won’t miss doing something with my kids because a game is on. If someone says, “Hey, Kasey we’re going trap shooting,” I don’t say I can’t go because Tottenham is playing. If I’m home and somebody says there’s a big game on, I’ll watch the game and be a part of that. I check the results for a lot of the teams I played for and see how they’re doing and how different friends on different teams are doing, but I don’t have a team in Europe that I’d say I’m a fan of this team. I like the way certain teams play, I like the way certain clubs have presented themselves over the years. And I’ve disliked certain clubs, players and teams, so maybe I’ll root against other teams as well, but not to any kind of supporters level.

Question: When you’re watching those European games do you find yourself critiquing the game, especially the goalkeeping?

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Keller: Oh sure, there’ll be some of that. But then at the same time, there will be times when I can understand why a certain mistake happened or I can understand why a goalie chose to do what he did. Or I’ll say, “I wouldn’t have done that, but wow it worked for him.” Sometimes, I’ll think that’s a good read because I don’t think I would have done it that way and it worked perfectly.

Question: Could you talk about arguably the greatest goalkeeping performance of your career back in February of 1998 when the U.S. beat Brazil 1-0 in the semifinals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup?

Keller: That was an interesting game against Brazil. At the time, it was still when Gold Cups were being played in the middle of the season and so it was very difficult for us to leave. I think Brad Friedel played in the earlier rounds and then I came in for the later rounds. And there was a very good chance that L.A. gets a little bit of rainfall and they don’t know what they’re going to do. So, it was really close the game was going to be called because maybe the field wasn’t quite up to par. The grounds crew did a very good job of keeping the game on. We couldn’t train the day before, I’d flown in the day before that from Europe, and really I was almost rooting for the game to be called off and thinking “wow” I don’t feel like I’m quite ready to play this game and in the end I’m kind of glad it didn’t.

But it was one of those games that every player wishes they could have in their career at some stage.

Question: Were you in ‘the zone’ or was the game happening in slow motion that athletes talk about?

Keller: Yeah, there was some of that and things that happened that you think “God, that was lucky.” And other things where you think “that was good.” I think there were two things that truly made that such a big game. First of all, who it was against, both players and team. So you’re looking at Brazil, the past world champions, the past Golden Boot winner [Giovane Elber] in a FIFA event, not a friendly and we won.

Because more often than not as a goalkeeper when you get shelled and have to make a bunch of saves, you have a great game, but you lose 2-0 or 3-1 and everyone says “…thanks man, because if it hadn’t been for you today it would have been an embarrassing number for us but you kept it respectable.” But, for Preki to get the goal, for us to hang on, to have Romario say and do the things he did in that game truly made it special.

The most frustrating thing about it was probably the fact that not enough people actually saw it. And there were multiple reasons. It was midweek, it was raining or had been raining and like I said if you get a drop of water in L.A. it’s almost like snow here.

Question: During the game, you saved several shots by Romario and he came up at one time and gave you a high five. Did you meet after or trade jerseys?

Keller: No, they kind of walked off the field with their heads down. But, Romario said some incredible things in the press conference afterwards. I’ve seen him a couple times since and he’s always been very nice and we have a good rapport.

I played with another Brazilian player, Giovane Elber, who played in that game and every once in awhile when there’d be a few people around, I’d ask him (facetiously) “did you ever play against the U.S.” and give him that kind of stuff. The first time it took him a little while and then it came to him and from that time on he’d just shake his head.

But, I remember making a save off Giovane in the game — this was at a time when he was in his prime at Bayern Munich, winning the Golden Boot in Europe — and I totally dove the wrong way and luckily with my size 13 feet I stuck a tow out and the ball goes just off the outside [of the post]. And I’m thinking ‘I can’t be any more lucky than that.’ Sometimes when it’s your day it’s your day and everything just came together at one time.

Question: You grew up in Olympia, did you go to any NASL Sounders games when they were playing?

Keller: I really only went to Sounders games late in their career. My dad was not a soccer guy and really didn’t know anything about it. So it wasn’t a case like in the 1970s where I’d say, “Hey, let’s go to Memorial Stadium and go watch the Sounders.” It wouldn’t even have come up. It was later, in the early 80s when I was starting to play on select teams. There’d be the odd occasion. I think I had one club team where we played a game before on the field [at the Kingdome].

Then later I’d go to the odd [Tacoma] Stars games with friends. We enjoyed it more before they got good crowds, because we could go down on the glass and taunt people.

Question: How did your stint with German club Borussia Monchengladbach happen and how did you come to live in a castle while you were there?

Keller: Things kind of changed at Tottenham. I had played about 100 games in a row and the chairman had made a statement saying that he wanted the club to go ‘young and British’ and I was neither, so they started buying all these young British players and I realized — unfortunately a little bit too — late that I needed to get out of Tottenham.

So it took me until the January transfer window [of 2005] to get this sorted out. The good part about it at that stage was I playing qualifying games, I was still playing Cup games for Tottenham and then I went on loan to Southampton for four games, so really in that 4-5 month period I was still playing regularly and I wasn’t stuck out in the wilderness.

And then a German agent friend of mine — he was never really my agent until this deal — but I’d known him for a long time and when I saw that my time at Tottenham coming to an end, I asked him to make some inquiries in Germany for me. I was close to going to Kaiserslautern at one time, to Schalke at one time so there had always been a little bit of a German interest there that didn’t quite happen. The other side of it too was that my ex-teammate Christian Ziege had moved from Tottenham to Monchengladbach .

The problem happened was when the inquiry was made right before the season started, they’d already signed two new goalkeepers. And then they realized through the first half of the season that they had made a mistake on the goalkeepers that they signed but it was very difficult for them to save face in the press. So, what happened was Dick Advocaat took the job right before the transfer window which then gave him and the sports director an excuse to sign a new goalkeeper. So, Dick called some people to do a little research on me and with Christian Ziege giving me a great endorsement … and Dick actually called Claudio Reyna from when Claudio played with Dick at Rangers.

So, I got to Gladbach and we got off to a pretty good start, then it got to be a shaky middle, and then the end was tremendous.

At the same time, we still had a house in London that we needed to sell, the kids were still in school and so we were trying to find a house close to the International School in Dusseldorf for the kids. And it was like every house we looked at was either one bedroom short or one something else short. We could just not find the house we needed to find.

With the joys of the Internet, my wife had seen this castle that was about 25-30 minutes away from the school. It was listed for event rentals. And then she looked again and a different web site popped up and showed the same castle as being available to rent monthly.

So we thought let’s have a look, drive how long it would take to get to the school and we’ll see what we can do about it.

So, I went out and met the owner and went through the house and it fit. Our kids’ beds fit into the bedrooms honestly by about a quarter inch. And we thought that had to be destiny. Then we sat down and thought it was a little inconvenient to be honest to take the kids to school every day, but how often do you get an opportunity to live in a 1,000 year-old castle.

The place was built originally by the Franks in 970 then had a major reconstruction around 1300 which was more or less kind of the blueprint of the way the house looked while we were there.

Question: Was it a classic castle with a moat around it and up on a hill?

Keller: Yes, and actually there was a three-quarter moat around it because part of it had been filled in. It wasn’t on a hill, It was on what was called a donk. Because it so flat in that area, what they did was they basically built up an area, like a mound, but only about 5 or 10 feet high and then moated around it.

We were told it wasn’t a place where somebody actually lived, it was a place that had a church and something else and it was set up for when there was a threat of an attack, the villagers would move into it and defend from there.

Then in about 1840-50, it burned down or burned out since brick and stone don’t burn. Then it must have been around the 1980s, the German preservation society granted some money to a developer to try to rejuvenate this back into a single family residence which is when a majority of the work was done to it. Then the owners that we rented it from did another large amount of work to it. They added some space, dug out the basement, put in an indoor pool, Jacuzzi and steam room. So, the dungeon was a spa.

Question: After you got settled, were you ever worried about damaging anything?

Keller: No, it wasn’t like that at all. There were different things that you’d look at and say, “Well, I would have done that different.” But for the most part, there were enough things that always kind of went wrong with it, where you never went, “wow, this is really cool.” One time we thought we had some ghosts, which we thought was pretty cool, but instead it was just an electrical short, which was a shame, because lights were going on and off and we thought “yeah, we can’t live in a 1,000 year old property and not have ghosts.” And then we realized it was just electrical issues.

Question: Did I hear you’re a Porsche lover?

Keller: Yes. I do have one.

Question: Did you ever get to unleash it on the autobahn while you were living in Germany?

Keller: So, I was always a Range Rover guy and always had Range Rovers and at some stage we ended up with two of them in England. We had one left-hand drive one that we brought from Spain when I played in Spain and we also had a right-hand one. Then we started thinking, why the heck do we have two Range Rovers. And then I had a bunch of teammates at Tottenham from Europe who all had their left-hand drive cars in Europe. So, I thought let’s see what it would cost to ship the left-hand drive Range Rover home and ship the left-hand drive Porsche that was sitting in our garage in Olympia over to Europe. It was far cheaper than to buy new cars so we did that. So, then the Porsche, which is an American spec left-hand Porsche went to England and that was kind of our second car in London that we drove around.

Then when we moved to Germany, it was like, the Porsche got to go home.

When we stayed up [at Monchengladbach] my second season and I re-signed for another year, I decided I was going to race tune and I put way too much money into it. Basically, I turned it into an autobahn monster.

I had several occasions going far too fast on the autobahn. I only got that car up to — which was funny enough because it could have gone much faster — about 170-175 miles per hour.

Question: Was that in the slow lane?

Keller: No, that was in the fast lane. But, I think 175 is pretty fast.

Question: Did you ever come across any troopers?

Keller: Why, it’s legal? (laughing)

Question: So, are there any speed limits?

Keller: There are limits in areas, but in other areas there are no limits.

It honestly is a weird feeling, when you pass a police car going 150-160 miles per hour. I don’t care, there always that “…am I going to get arrested.” Because the problem with the autobahn is if you miss a sign, there could be a sign that says this particular area you have to go 130 kilometers an hour. Now, when you’re doing 260 kilometers an hour, that sign can go by real fast, so there’s always that little bit of feeling when I pass that police car is there a reason why he’s only doing 150 kilometers an hour here. And then you kind of think “well, I don’t see any lights, so wham, alright, here we go.”

I miss the autobahn every day, I truly, truly miss it. I had a great time in Germany and there are many things that I miss, in a Land Rover driving the kids to school at 120 miles an hour and getting passed is just a fun feeling.

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