Seattle snaps up Austrian goalkeeper
During his vacation in Europe about this time a year ago, Seattle Sounders coach Sigi Schmid made a point of getting in touch with a former player in the hopes of finding a connection that could land Seattle a new goalkeeper with the pending retirement of Kasey Keller.
Schmid's first target decided to re-sign in Europe. His second option is now in line to be Keller's replacement.
The Sounders announced the signing of Austrian goalkeeper Michael Gspurning on Wednesday, bringing the 30-year-old from the top division in Greece to Major League Soccer.
Terms of Gspurning's deal were not released by the club, but the timing could not have worked out better for the player and the Sounders. Gspurning's deal with Skoda Xanthi in Greece's top division ends this month. So instead of making a trade within MLS to bring in another goalkeeper, Seattle just needs to receive Gspurning's international clearance to add him to its roster.
''In this case it was very lucky for me. ... Sounders and MLS was perfect,'' Gspurning said during a conference call.
Gspurning has played the past four seasons for Xanthi and was a two-time all-star in the Greek Super League. Between his time in Greece and playing in the top division in Austria, Gspurning has 96 career appearances and three caps for the Austrian national team.
And now he takes on the task of replacing Keller, who retired at the end of this season. Gspurning got a taste of what Keller means locally when he quietly visited Seattle last summer and took in a Sounders game. The team is trying to downplay that Gspurning is replacing Keller, but the newcomer has a strong understanding of who he'll be taking over for.
''He played in the biggest leagues in Europe and he's a hero in Seattle. It's my personal opinion he did very well that he finished his career in the hometown,'' Gspurning said. ''It's a big challenge, a big task to be the guy that is playing now and be the goalkeeper in Seattle after Kasey.''
At 6-foot-5, Gspurning is an imposing presence in net. Schmid said his style is aggressive going after crosses and that he likes having passes played back to him.
Gspurning was one of a number of options Seattle explored.
Schmid said one trade option within MLS was continually rebuffed and that Gspurning became the Sounders' best option.
"We like Michael's background and pedigree. We like his size,'' Schmid said. ''He's got good feet so we can play through him and he's very good on crosses, takes good angles and has good hands.''
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