FOX Soccer Exclusive
Keller standard for returning Americans
Three very good years, more than 100 games, three trophies, and all for a combined price of around a million dollars in salary. That resume would be enough to make any player a dream acquisition and a steal of a signing, but for Kasey Keller, who compiled those accomplishments after already putting in a two-decade career, the track record is jaw-dropping.
Keller’s career will receive deserved praise in the coming days and weeks as he winds down a Hall of Fame career, but for all his accomplishments overseas and with the US national team, he also deserves credit for his time in MLS. The 42-year-old cut short a career in Europe to come back to the United States and still contributes as an impact player. Unfortunately, that’s not something many older American players returning from Europe can say.
Kasey Keller’s last regular season game in Seattle is Saturday on FOX Soccer (10 p.m. ET).
That isn’t to begrudge European-based Americans for wanting to play at the top level as long as possible, but Keller deserves praise for passing on a chance to stay in Europe longer to give some valuable time to MLS. Not only did he do that, but he also did it for a salary that was a fraction of what he earned abroad.
Keller was fortunate in that he was able to stay healthy and extend his career well beyond the normal length enjoyed by most, but his success in Seattle - and the affection Sounders have for him - should offer an example to future returning Americans of the value in coming back with something left in the tank.
Perhaps it’s too idealistic to think that European-based Americans will start bypassing chances to make seven-figure salaries overseas for low to middle six-figure salaries in MLS, but that’s what makes Keller’s decision, and his accomplishments with Seattle, all the more impressive.
That isn’t the only reason more than 62,000 Seattle fans are converging on CenturyLink Field to honor Keller on Saturday night. They will be there because of everything he has done for and meant to American soccer; his days as a pioneer in England and trailblazer across Europe; his heroics in a national team uniform, including his role as one of the few bright spots in the 2006 World Cup.
Somewhere on that list needs to be his time in MLS. Not just for his contributions to Seattle’s impressive first three seasons in the league, but for the standard he has established and example he has set for future Americans who come home from careers in Europe.
Colorado Rapids vs. Real Salt Lake
RSL is mired in a terrible slump and will be without suspended captain Kyle Beckerman, but don’t be surprised if Real Salt Lake wakes up and really puts the Rapids to the test at home. Colorado will have the home-field edge in this one, but look for RSL to snap their winless skid.
Portland Timbers vs. Houston Dynamo
The Timbers are in desperation mode and cannot afford to drop points in this vital home match. Luckily for Portland, Houston is one of the worst road teams in the league, though it should be noted the Dynamo posted their first road win of the year in their last road game. Portland’s attack will be too much for Houston, keeping the Timbers’ playoff hopes alive.
Sporting Kansas City vs. New York Red Bulls
One team eyeing first takes on another team trying to solidify its playoff place. Sporting KC has been extremely tough at Livestrong Sporting Park, while the Red Bulls have been bad on the road, but New York has looked better in recent weeks and will make this a close one. If the Red Bulls defense can hold up early on, look for this one to end in a tie, but if Sporting KC can get rolling early, this one could get ugly.
Philadelphia Union vs. Toronto FC
The Union are on a roll, and there is every reason to believe they will keep it going at home against a Toronto FC side that will likely be more focused on their own important CONCACAF Champions League match on Tuesday. Freddy Adu is finally healthy and fit and looks poised to provide a much-needed attacking complement to Sebastien LeToux.
DC United vs. Chicago Fire
DC United dropped a mid-week heartbreaker to Vancouver, which makes this match-up as close to a must-win as you can get. United faces a Chicago team that saw its own playoff dreams virtually dashed by a mid-week loss. There is too much history in the Fire-United rivalry to think the Fire will lay down for DC, least of all when Frank Klopas is still coaching for a permanent job.
New England Revolution vs. Columbus Crew
Columbus may have lost its grip on a chance for first place in the East, but if the Crew want to hold onto an automatic playoff spot and avoid the rough road of the wild card route, they need a win against a New England side playing out the string. With Rookie of the Year candidate A.J. Soares out for the year, the Revs will have a tough time stopping the Crew.
FC Dallas vs. Vancouver Whitecaps
The Whitecaps have enjoyed a strong run in recent weeks, with their dangerous offense causing problems for opponents. Enter Dallas, which snapped its own recent slump with a mid-week win. The real question here is whether FC Dallas will rest players ahead of their big CONCACAF Champions League match. If so, Vancouver could certainly spring an upset. If not, Dallas should roll.
Seattle Sounders vs. San Jose Earthquakes
With more than 62,000 fans expected for Kasey Keller’s final home regular season game before retiring, Seattle will have plenty of motivation to put on a good show and should overwhelm a San Jose side playing out the string. Chris Wondolowski is on form lately, and could make things interesting, but look for Kasey Keller to have a strong showing on his special night.
Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Chivas USA
Talk about an anti-climactic "SuperClasico". The Galaxy have already clinched the Supporters Shield and Chivas USA is already eliminated from the playoffs. One subplot to watch will be seeing how Juan Pablo Angel does against the team that dumped him at mid-season. It’s safe to say he’ll be motivated.
Ives Galarcep is a senior writer for FOXSoccer.com covering Major League Soccer and the US National Team.