Quakes pay tribute to Kasey Keller

October 15, 2011, 2:35 am
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SAN JOSE The Earthquakes are aware that Saturday evenings trip north to face SeattleSounders FC will be a special occasion though the Bay Area team wont be thecenter of attention. Sounders FC has billed the match its final regular seasonhome game of the season as a send-off for its 41-year-old goalkeeper KaseyKeller, who is retiring at the end of 2011 after 22 years in professionalsoccer. Keller was one of the first American players to find success overseas,playing for nearly 20 years in England,Spain and Germany, while amassing 102 caps in a 17-yearcareer with the U.S.national team. The significance of his career was not lost on the Earthquakes. I think the two guys that really made it overseas earlywere Kasey and John Harkes, Earthquakes head coach Frank Yallop said,referring also to the U.S. national team midfielder who made his name withEnglands Sheffield Wednesday. A terrific career, great goalkeeper for the U.S., but agreat club goalkeeper as well, Yallop continued. He deserves all theaccolades hes going to get. What can you say about him, really? I think hes oneof the greatest thats played in goal. Jon Busch, the Earthquakes current starter in goal andKellers occasional teammate on the U.S. national team, also had plentyto say about Keller, whom he referred to not only as a colleague, but a mentoras well. Hes an absolute legend both on and off the field, alwayshad time to talk, Busch said, going on to share an anecdote about one of hisinteractions with Keller while on the national team. I remember one specific trip coming back from Mexico City with him, onthe plane, and asking him a few questions from the game we had just played,that he had just played, and he took all the time in the world with mejust talking about stuff and goalkeeping and things like that, Buschrecalled. For me, it just sums it up, how many people respect him for hiscareer and hes had an unbelievable career. In spite of all the plaudits Keller has drawn and willcontinue to draw as his retirement approaches, the Earthquakes are still keenlyaware of the daunting task ahead of them. According to the Sounders FC Twitteraccount, over 61,000 tickets have been sold for Saturday evenings match atCenturyLink Field, which any MLS or NFL (the venue is shared with the SeattleSeahawks) fan will tell you is one of the loudest and most difficult venues fora visiting team to play in. The 61,000 number already puts the match in the top five forsingle match attendance for an MLS game (that is, not part of a doubleheaderinvolving an international team). With Century Link Field boasting a capacityof 67,000, it could become the most attended single MLS match since the verybeginning of the league, when a game between the Los Angeles Galaxy and theNYNJ MetroStars (now the New York Red Bulls) drew 69,255 to the Rose Bowl inPasadena, Calif on April 13, 1996 in the Galaxys first-ever MLS game. Instead of looking at the huge crowd in Seattle as an obstacle for his team, though,Yallop who played in the leagues initial season with the Tampa Bay Mutiny praised the projected attendance as a sign of just how far soccer has come inthe 15 years since MLS started. From where I started off in the league and now, Ivecoached in the league a long time for us to have 60,000 people in theirseats, paying to watch soccer in this country is fantastic, he said. For me,thats how for the leagues come and its absolutely wonderful to see. The Earthquakes insisted the potentially intimidatingatmosphere would be a boost, rather than a burden. I think it lifts our players, Yallop said. We want to winand obviously playing in an intimidating situation makes you stronger, I think.Weve actually done well in tough-type scenarios. I think weve rose to theoccasion, which is good. Busch agreed, adding, I think its the environment whereplayers want to play You want to play in front of big crowds and show what youcan do, both as an individual and a team, and I think everybodys excited forit.NotesThe Earthquakes will now have participated in twoof the three MLS matches in 2011 that broke the 40,000-person barrier forattendance. In addition to Saturdays upcoming game, the Earthquakes hosted theNew York Red Bulls at Stanford Stadium on July 2 to a crowd of 41,028. SoundersFC was involved in the other, again hosting the Red Bulls in front of 46,065fans.Defender Ike Opara and forward Alan Gordon bothparticipated in training this week, but are not match fit and unlikely toparticipate in the final two games of the season. Yallop confirmed Oparas footinjury seems to have healed. In addition to Opara and Gordon, the Earthquakeswill be without the services of Bobby Convey (knee injury), Ramiro Corrales(ankle sprain), as well as long term absentees Andre Luiz (knee injury) andSteven Lenhart (family leave). In the race for the Golden Boot, the leaguesscoring title, D.C. United forward Dwayne De Rosario did not play in D.C.s 2-1loss to Vancouver on Wednesday night. De Rosario, the Earthquakes ChrisWondolowski and New YorksThierry Henry are all tied on 14 goals, with former Earthquake De Rosarioholding the tiebreaker with more assists than Wondolowski or Henry. San Jose and New York have two games left, while D.C. has three. After handing an MLS debut to rookie goalkeeperDavid Bingham, Yallop confirmed that Jon Busch would start again in goalagainst Seattle.For more Earthquakes, MLS and world soccer chatter,you can follow Nick Rosano on Twitter: @nicholasrosano