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Originally published September 17, 2012 at 10:01 PM | Page modified September 18, 2012 at 2:39 PM

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Soccer dream comes true for Sounders' Marcus Hahnemann

Marcus Hahnemann, 40, will finish his career as a goalkeeper playing for Sounders FC. He said he hopes to play with the Sounders at least through the 2013 season.

Seattle Times staff columnist

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TUKWILA — Finally, reluctantly, Marcus Hahnemann retired. He surrendered to the reality that he wasn't going to finish his career where it started: in Seattle, with the Sounders.

He was beginning to plan his life after soccer. Some coaching with his friends and former Sounders teammates Chance Fry and Bernie James. A lot of fishing near his cabin in Cle Elum. Maybe even a real job in marketing.

"I was really retired," Hahnemann said.

After three seasons with the old A-League Sounders, a stint with Colorado in MLS, two World Cups and 13 years as a goalkeeper in England, Hahnemann was going to leave the game and forget about his dream of one more run with his home club.

And then Sounders FC general manager Adrian Hanauer called, inviting him for a workout. And after watching Hahnemann train with goalkeeper coach Tom Dutra last week, Hanauer asked him, "Do you still want to play?"

"With you guys?" Hahnemann said. "Yeah."

It was as simple as that.

"I thought it was something that had slipped through my fingers. It had all gone by the wayside and all of a sudden it was happening," Hahnemann said Monday before heading for the weight room. "It didn't quite make sense."

Friday, just before MLS rosters were frozen for the season, Hahnemann signed with Seattle.

"I think Marcus was starting to set himself up for a bit of a life of leisure," Hanauer said. "And we gave him a call and told him to hold off on the fishing and hunting at least a little longer."

Hahnemann is a luxury on a team that already is locked and loaded for a run at the MLS Cup. The Sounders are 10-2-3 when Michael Gspurning, a former Austrian national team keeper, starts. But Gspurning missed a large chunk of the season with a hip injury.

Now, with 6-foot-3 Hahnemann, the Sounders have a quality insurance policy and another touch of class on a team that continues to add it, whether it's with Argentine midfielder Mauro Rosales or longtime Bundesliga midfielder Christian Tiffert.

"Of course I want to play," Hahnemann said. "I didn't come here to just make up numbers. That's not why I'm a goalkeeper. And let me tell you, it's not the money that Adrian's paying me. I can tell you that for a fact. Adrian did tell me he was a little bit embarrassed with what he was offering me. But I told him whatever is fine. It didn't matter. I just wanted to come out."

Hahnemann started 276 league games for Reading in England. He was a backup keeper on the United States' 2006 and 2010 World Cup teams. He's been capped nine times. And like former Sounder Kasey Keller, he is a hometown boy as well as a slice of soccer history in this city.

He played many of his high school games at Starfire, where the Sounders train. The A-League Sounders won two championships with Hahnemann, and he was the keeper on a national championship team at Seattle Pacific.

His arrival is another sign that this team is willing to push the envelope in pursuit of a championship. Signing Hahnemann isn't some sentimental journey.

"It was all soccer," Hanauer said. "We wouldn't have done it for sentiment. We think he's still got good goalkeeping in him. It's an added bonus if there's a bit of sentiment in there. But we're in the business of winning championships, and as much as I love Marcus ... if he couldn't do the business, we wouldn't have signed him."

Hahnemann, 40, worked out with the squad for the first time Monday.

"I can't believe I'm here," he said after training.

He almost joined the Sounders last season, but stayed in England and backed up fellow American Tim Howard at Everton. He was released in May.

"It's pretty surreal," he said. "To sit in the locker room today, I mean — we didn't think we were going to get it done."

He expects to be with the team through the 2013 season and then he'll re-evaluate his future.

"We've got to get him fit first and see what's left in the tank," said Dutra, who has been a friend of Hahnemann's for more than 20 years and was a teammate for a season with the old Sounders. "He's an amazing shot-stopper. Always has been. Very quick for his size. We'll just have to see what he looks like when he's ready to go. It's going to take time."

Few athletes get to script their leave-taking. The unemotional business of sports overwhelms nostalgia. Hahnemann is one of the lucky ones. He will finish his career on his terms and with his team.

"I had an unbelievable career in England. Better than I ever dreamed of," he said. "But this was the first pro team I ever played for. Everyone knew I wanted to come back and play in Seattle. It's awesome. It's unbelievable."

Marcus Hahnemann will finish his career in Seattle. It's not unbelievable. It's real.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com.

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