A weekly Q&A with Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller.
Today, Sounders FC’s goalkeeper talks about playing practical jokes, the new U.S. national team coach and more with online sports producer Bob Wickwire.
Q: You tried to pants teammate Roger Levesque during a national TV interview after the New York Red Bulls game in late June, have you done that before?
Keller: I could have gotten in trouble when I was playing in Germany. We were celebrating a win with fans behind a goal at the main supporters’ end. And there was a Danish player named Kasper Bogelund … so he was next to me and we were celebrating and doing everything and then I slip behind him and he had his hands up and I absolutely pantsed him, absolutely everything, and his hands are up, he’s clapping and his pants are around his ankles (laughing). He took it pretty well; his only complaint was that it was about 45 degrees outside, so he said he didn’t feel like he was well represented because of the cold weather (laughing).
It was funny as hell, but I felt a little bad that I didn’t truly mean to drop it all.
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Q: Are you or have you been the guy who is the jokester on the Sounders and other teams you’ve played for?
Keller: Oh, no question, Yeah, yeah. I did it a lot on the national team.
Dave Sarachen, the assistant coach at L.A. [Galaxy] and when he was the assistant coach of the national team, got pantsed more than you could possibly imagine [laughing]. Out at training, out at walkthroughs at the stadium.
The press guy, Michael Kammarman, he got it really bad one time with one of the head delegates from FIFA, this Canadian lady. It’s always good when they have a bunch of stuff in their hands, so he had a laptop and something in his hands on the field in Panama, so that one went pretty well.
One of the worst I got was … one of Eddie Gaven’s first trips in with the national team, Eddie is about as quiet and shy as a person as you can get. So he’s got a plate full of food in his hand and he’s talking to a team administrator and I totally pantsed him (laughing).
Q: Did the joking happen more or less while you were in Europe?
Keller: In England it happens a lot more, there’s always a lot of shenanigans going on there. Germany, not so much, and I felt that there needed to be (smiling).
There was a time when we were in a good run at Gladbach and I was walking off the field with one of my young teammates. And we’re walking and the team mascot was maybe 15 yards behind us, it was a horse called Junter.
We were in a great run and we won this game at home and I say to my teammate, “Hey, should I tackle Junter?” And he’s like, “Yeah.” And I say, “No, I can’t do it.” And he’s like, “Yeah, go get him.”
So, I turn and go to tackle him and he’s really light, so I just put him on my shoulder and I run to the front of the goal by the end supporters and I proceed just to Big Time Wrestle him. So, I’m picking him up, soft slamming him, and putting him over my knee, elbow smashing him and then I pin him, it was insane (laughing). It went all over Germany.
Q: In the last month, Jurgen Klinsmann was named the new U.S. national team coach, what are your thoughts on the hire?
Keller: I’ve known Jurgen for years. We know each other fine. He almost brought me to Bayern Munich and we work with a lot of the same people.
I think for multiple reasons, it makes a lot of sense.
The position of U.S. national team manager is getting big enough to where it’s nice to have a figure, a name, somebody that there’s a worldwide association with where if something is not going right, you know he can pick up the phone and call FIFA, call [Franz] Beckenbauer and call [Michel] Platini. So, that’s a great side of it.
But, the side that make it probably the most intriguing and probably the best scenario … Jurgen is such a good fit on paper — you still have to get the results — he has all the European stuff, he’s lived in the States for the last 10, 12 years, he knows people here, he knows the way it runs. That side of it makes it a perfect fit.
I think 20-30 years ago you had a bit of a similar fit with some of the guys that came out of the NASL (North American Soccer League). … They lived here, they were able to take the European side, the American side, mesh it together and help this real good run that soccer has been on in this country over the last 20 years. And I think there’s a lot of credit that has to be involved with the guys from the NASL that were here and brought that in.
It’s still a tough position, because if you look at it, the U.S. National Team … you don’t have the 5 million pounds a year that England will pay for their national team coach. … Obviously the U.S. isn’t quite there yet, so you’re not going to entice somebody away from a big club, so then you think, “Well is it worth it then going to get somebody smaller? No.” … It’s a perfect fit, now it’s about getting the team to play well.
We’re in a little bit of an interesting crossroads, there was a start of a change for 2010. From 1998 to 2006, there was a pretty good core of guys. … Now there’s a little shift. … It’s going to be interesting to see how we can introduce new players, new guys that will consistently score, guys that will really be solid live we have been.
Q: Do you think Klinsmann will be able to get his philosophy further down in the U.S. system?
Keller: I think if you’ve read through it … even in Jurgen’s press conference he said there’s going to be a lot of work between what Claudio [Reyna] (USSF U.S. Youth Soccer Technical Director) is doing in redeveloping the youth idea and then meshing it together with the approach of the full national team. It should be hand-in-hand, but it doesn’t necessarily always work that way and I’m sure it will with the two of them.
Q: Will we see more of the German training and style of play?
Keller: The thing about Jurgen — and I don’t by any means want to compare myself to Jurgen — but you get to the stage where Jurgen was [playing in] Germany, Italy, France, England, where I was England, Spain, Germany, England, America. So, you have different ways you’ve learned, the French kind of did it this way, the Germans would have done it this way, the Italians would have done it this way, now I think “That will work well for the Americans, but this not so much.” You have so much experience because of all the different things you’ve done and all the different managers you’ve had … this worked well with the German National Team, but this didn’t work well at Bayern Munch. It’s a different situation where he’s been in plenty of those environments.
I also like his approach with what he’s doing in trying to figure out his assistants and not just jumping in and saying, “Ok, I’m going to hire this guy.” He’s saying, “Look, we’ve got time, we’ll bring in some guys and see what fits, see what I like and see who can bring what.”
Q: Recently, MLS made a tweak to the salary structure for young designated players. If you were commissioner, and you probably don’t want that job after you retire …
Keller: (Interrupting) I wouldn’t mind being commissioner (laughing).
Q: Is there one thing you’d change, for example the single-entity ownership model or something else?
Keller: Well, I think we’re moving away from single-entity as the teams get more professional and more organizations, like Seattle, that have the infrastructure to be able to handle it. I think that’s going its own route.
I understand the concept of the DP rule, when it first got implemented, that you could bring somebody in to help raise the profile of the league. Now, I’m not quite sure how some guy raises the profile of the league that I’ve never heard of, much less who in the stands has heard of.
Now, is it a case where they’re going to offer so much to your team? I haven’t seen it a whole lot so far in the existence of the DP. Do I understand David Beckham? Sure. Do I understand Thierry Henry? Yeah, okay. Robbie Keane I think is a good fit.
I also understand wanting to reward people for doing well and different things, but there is still a reason why no team that has a DP has ever won the championship. I still think we need to get to a point where the most important thing is getting your team; however you need to do it, to win a championship as opposed to this will sell a lot of shirts, and this will get our team name in People magazine and this will get somebody talking about it in England or in France or wherever.
I think what they could do very easily, which would then help everybody is just eliminate the cap burden of the designated player. So, you sign a designated player, but then you can still use that $400,000.
So, I guess what the argument was, which is probably a reason why no team with a Designated Player has won is because you sacrifice so much by having a Designated Player that it then takes away from your overall team quality because you can’t afford to get enough other good players around them.
There’s no question, I would much prefer if you’re not bringing in a name that is truly going to bring people into the seats to have that money spread out on a bigger cap and then be able to bring in and keep overall better players and raise the quality of the game on a whole as opposed to the individual.
I think it all has to come with the financial success of the league. The more financially successful the league is, the more the cap will go up on its own and it has proven that over the years. Outside of CBAs, the cap will go up if the owners feel they can afford for it to go up.
I would love to see something at some stage where we have a minimum of $75,000 or $100,000. Where you don’t look at it and say, “Wow, this guy would make more money working at Starbucks.”
There’s that little bit of feel-good factor of “Wow, these guys are really doing it to try to make it [work], and hey they’re not that much different than us.” But, there’s a reason why we put pro athletes on a pedestal, because that’s kind of the idea, it’s like “I wish that could have been me, or I wish I had that ability or if I had only gotten this break.”
But, it’s easy to spend other people’s money (laughing).