Kasey Keller's retirement party draws crowd of 64,140
Sounders goalkeeper plays last regular-season home game
Seattle Times staff reporter
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Kasey Keller tried to deflect it, but the historical night's underlying theme couldn't be denied.
From a massive portrait unfurled by the Emerald City Supporters to the "Thank You Kasey" placards held up in the 18th minute, commemorating his jersey number, it was clear that a majority of the 64,140 in attendance at CenturyLink Field on Saturday were there to honor the Sounders FC goalkeeper.
Keller, who turns 42 in November, played his final regular-season MLS home game. He's retiring after 20 years, and as exits go, Keller's was a winner.
He made one-handed saves, tip saves and athletic saves with his feet to get the fans to chant his name. He finished with seven saves.
If it weren't for San Jose forward Chris Wondolowski eking the ball past Keller's outstretched arms for a goal in the 24th minute, it would have been a storybook ending.
"I grew up watching the Sounders play like all of you did, so to be able to finish my career with the Sounders is the biggest honor I could have in my career," Keller said in his 90-second postgame speech. "But I'm just a small piece in the big thing, so thank you all."
The organization presented him with a pair of bronzed goalkeeper gloves mounted on an inscribed plaque, a KTM 500 EXC motorcycle, and a Honda TRX420 Rancher off-road vehicle. Former U.S. National Team teammates Brian McBride and Claudio Reyna also attended.
But Keller won't disappear. The team still has two outings (a home CONCACAF contest Tuesday against Monterrey and the final regular-season MLS match at Chivas USA on Saturday) remaining before the MLS playoffs. After the season, he will likely work with the Sounders in efforts to continue to grow the sport in his home state.
In fact, his return to the Puget Sound from overseas play contributed greatly to the Sounders' relatively quick success at the turnstiles, including the record attendance in the 2-1 victory Saturday against San Jose.
Only Keller preferred to believe his retirement had little to do with the emotional night.
"I'm not one who likes to take focus," Keller said later. "This is the most nervous I've been for a game since the World Cup because I just didn't want to disappoint."
His pregame routine stayed the same. Dressed in a pink jersey for Breast Health Awareness Month, Keller warmed up along the edges of the south penalty box, clapping his hands to the crowd in appreciation. An early smattering of fans waved "In Keller We Trust" scarves and homemade "We Thank You Kasey Keller" signs.
Twitter started buzzing early Saturday morning with fans reflecting on Keller memories.
Added to the list of memories was the game Saturday, where Keller was a nearly impenetrable wall, again.
"This is America's top goalkeeper," Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid said.
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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