Kickin' it with Kasey Keller
This week Sounders FC's goalkeeper talks about the Champions League final, the Timbers rivalry and more.
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This week Sounders FC's goalkeeper talks about the Champions League, Lionel Messi and the Timbers rivalry.
Question: With Manchester United and Barcelona meeting in Saturday's Champions League final, what are your thoughts on the game?
Keller: Well, you look at two of the biggest clubs in the world, big stars on both teams. Being at Wembley (Stadium) kind of gives it that little bit extra for Man U, but Barcelona, I think consistently over the last three, four years has been the best team in the world. You kind of feel that if they play well, they're untouchable.
Obviously, Man U has got plenty of firepower and is a very formidable team and are more than capable of beating Barcelona on the day, but you have to believe that Barcelona is the favorite.
Q: How about a prediction?
Keller: I would think 2-1 or 3-1 to Barcelona.
Q: What are your thoughts on Barcelona's Lionel Messi?
Keller: Well, you look at obviously his age and how well he's been able to play. Knowing that he gets kicked all the time and he plays most games. The way he defends once he loses the ball is tremendous. It's not a case of "I'm only going to play when I have the ball." The reason why he's so successful is because he's a complete player.
If you have the best player in the world who is willing to defend for your team as well, that makes a big, big difference.
I think the top guys — and Pele will tell you, and George Best would have told you and Messi as well — they do things they don't even know why, it just happens and they can't explain it. The little touch, the little dink, the little everything he (Messi) does where the guy is coming toward him ... he knows what they're going to do, or he can react so quickly and has the perfect touch.
The goal Messi scored [in the Champions League against Arsenal]â€¦keeper comes out, and he just pops it up to himself, and you're thinking "you can't possibly have a premonition"â€¦it's just something that happens so fast and so instinctively, it's impressive.
If he stays fit and continues to do well, and let's say Argentina wins a World Cup, he's going to be of the Peles, of the Maradonas, of the George Bests ... he will be in that category.
Q: What were your impressions of the atmosphere at Qwest Field for Round 1 of Sounders vs. Timbers?
Keller: I think the one thing we have to emphasize is that we have a great atmosphere every game, we sell out every game. Sometimes when you talk about these big derby games it's because there's an extra 15,000 to 20,000 people in the stands because of THAT game. We don't have that issue. We have a great atmosphere every time we step on the field.
Was there a little bit more? Sure, but because we have such a great atmosphere, there can't be exponentially more just for that game.
Obviously, we were disappointed with conceding the goal and couldn't get the winner afterwards, apart from that, it was a good starting point.
The one thing I really liked, what I was very happy about was we were so loud, there was not at one time when I heard any specifics coming from the Portland section.
Nothing is worse than being home...and it would happen at Fulham sometimes, where they would sell the whole end behind a goal. As the home goalkeeper, it's like I have an away game at home for half the game, and there's nothing I hate more than that. At the same time, when I'm away from home and another team sells that, I'm thinking "oh sweet, my one half is like a home game."
Q: Do you have a den or place at your house that holds some of the sports and music memorabilia that you've acquired over the years?
Keller: Yeah, I have two things. I have a basement/garage space that isn't accessible from the inside of the house. It's more of a shop space, but then there's another area that has my free weights ... a lot of the music stuff that guys have sent me.
Then there's also a game room in the house that got kind of converted, it started to be more the music stuff, but then it's turned more into the sports stuff.
Q: Do you have a signed Pele item?
Keller: (Modestly) Yeah, I do. (laughing).
Q: What is it?
Keller: It's funny, I remember (former Sounders keeper) Ben Dragavon was at my house one time, and he was laughing because it was actually hanging in my garage: "To Kasey, best of luck. Pele" on this big poster. And he was like, "Holy cow, Kasey, this is from Pele and just hanging in the garage." (laughing).
Q: Do you trade your gloves?
Keller: Actually, I knew a player, a striker at Leverkusen named Ulf Kirsten. His son was a goalkeeper, so he wanted goalkeeping gloves from every goalkeeper he played against, which was funny for a striker.
Q: Do you throw many in the stands or give them to kids?
Keller: Not too often. I always have a group that I have for games and then I have a pair that I train in that get more beat up. And I'll only trade out the game gloves when I feel I'm not happy with the grip that they're providing. I think if you watch me in warm-ups, a lot times I'll start with a pair of gloves, warm up in them to a point, like how they feel , and then take them off and put on another pair, because then I feel I have that pair ready for the game...
It sounds kind of funny, but the wetter it is, a lot of times you'll want a glove that's more worn. You would think that it would be the other way. On a dry game, a lot of times I'll wear a newer glove and use that as a break-in period...the new gloves just don't seem to work as well when it's very wet and unfortunately we've been having so many wet games.
I feel bad sometimes because I'll be signing autographs after a game and kids will be like, "Can I have your gloves?" and I'm like, "Sorry, they feel too good, so I'm not giving them away yet." (Laughing).
Q: How about the design process — do you know the exact specs you want?
Keller: Well, it's not quite that. You're basically looking at foam thickness. Some keepers like a thicker foam and some keepers like a thinner foam. I like a thinner foam. Some keepers like a tight glove, some keepers like a loose glove. I like a loose glove. Some like what they call a wrapped finger and some like a flat finger. I like a flat finger. It's those kinds of little specifics.
The expensive part of making a glove is the plates that cut the specific pattern. Once the plates are made it doesn't cost anything to cut out so many of them. And I've been very fortunate, the company I was with before Puma, left the factory, Puma moved in and when I moved to Puma, my plates were still there. So, it worked out. [Laughing]
Q: What about your cleats — you've probably worn many throughout your career?
Keller: Sure, but I don't go through them that much. I know guys that change their shoes a lot.
For me, I was always pretty simple, when you're on grass you're wearing studs, and besides my time in Seattle, I've only played on grass. I'll train in different shoes, but when you're playing in games, as a goalkeeper, you have to maybe forfeit a little bit of comfort because if you slip, it's trouble. So you have to just say, "Look, maybe it's a little hard, maybe it's not, but I can't afford to slip."
Q: Did you have a favorite pair when you were a kid?
Keller: One of my favorite shoes growing up as kid was a pair of Patricks. They were (Kevin) Keegan Golds, they were kangaroo leather and were awesome. I really liked them. And then on turf, I had a pair of adidas' Beckenbauer Specials ... and I really liked those.
And now I have a pair of studs, I don't even know what the brand is, but the studs I've been wearing with Puma are a seven stud [bottom of the shoe] as opposed to a six stud and I've really enjoyed them. They've been one of my most favorite studs that I've ever worn and I've just been very happy.
Q: Do the Sounders have the same kind of boot room guys as they do with European clubs?
Keller: No. I've got to give some props to my guy Rolf Hülswitt in Germany [at Monchengladbach], he was phenomenal. He was an old-school German army guy and oh my God, the boots were pride. I mean, you could eat off your boots if you wanted to after training. Rolf did a tremendous job.
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