The most noteworthy thing in Chivas USA's season finale Saturday night at Home Depot Center: It's Kasey Keller's final regular-season game.
Keller, an American soccer legend whose 20-year career has taken him from Olympia, Wash., to the University of Portland to clubs in England (Millwall, Leicester City, Tottenham, Southampton and Fulham), Spain (Rayo Vallecano) and Germany (Borusssia Mönchengladbach), three World Cups and, with the Seattle Sounders' 2009 establishment in Major League Soccer, back to his roots. He'll retire when Seattle wins this year's MLS Cup title or is eliminated in the playoffs.
There are four goalkeepers, all recent, that stand tall in American soccer's annals: Keller, Tony Meola, Brad Friedel and current No. 1 Tim Howard. Keller might stand tallest, and his greatest performance -- spectacularly shutting out Brazil in the 1998 CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals; he was so good that Romario shook his hand after one save -- might be the finest moment in U.S. Soccer history.
We asked five people, from Chivas USA and the Galaxy, who have played with or coached Keller, their impressions of the 41-year-old netminder.
Chivas USA's head coach played in central defense for the U.S. national team, with Keller barking orders behind him.
“Kasey's been big in this country. He's been big for this country. He's done extremely well wherever hes been. It's obviously good to see him ending his career on a high point with a team that's doing well. ...
“Kasey is a good shot-stopper. I think to make it at as high a level as he has for as long as he has, you have to have a sheer determination, a sheer will to win. I think he's got that.
“He's made a tremendous amount of phenomenal saves over the years, but he's also got a good soccer understanding. The best goalkeepers are the ones who can put [teammates] in spots where they don't have to make a ton of great saves, and he was very capable of that as well. ... There's just a level of confidence, a shot-stopping abililty, an undstanding of the game and where dangerous opportunities are going to run. These guys, Kasey and Brad Friedel, were able to snuff out problems before they occurred.
“Kasey's been around for a long time. He's been around so many years that he was there before the American team was [considered a decent team]. He had to make a lot of saves to keep us in games over the years.”
The Galaxy captain played with Keller with the U.S. national team.
“He's a legend. There's no question about it. It will be happy to see him go, but I'm sure we'll see his face around soccer for many years to come.”
The veteran Chivas USA midfielder was Keller's teammate in 2007 at Fulham.
“He's had a great career. It's been over 20 years, isn't it? And I was fortunate to be at the same club for awhile. [Keller has shown that] if you're disciplined and your approach is right, you can play for a long, long time.
“It's a good example for some of the younger guys out there that you can have a long, productive, fulfilling career if you approach it right, and Kasey's obviously done that, proven himself time and again over a number of years.”
The Galaxy's head coach and general manager coached Keller with the national team.
“He's had a storied career, and I know he'd like to win an MLS Cup championship in his last year of competitive soccer. He's just been a fabulous representative of U.S. Soccer, he's been a fabulous goalkeeper, and I would have to think he goes down as one of the top one, two, three goalkeepers in the history of U.S. Soccer.”
Chivas USA's top assistant coach played in front of Keller with the U.S. national team.
“Kasey's been a tremendous professional. He's had one of the greatest careers in U.S. Soccer history and opened the door for a lot of guys to go to Europe, goalkeepers especially. He's been huge for U.S. Soccer in a number of ways. I imagine he'll continue in the game and continue to do great things for soccer in this country, because he's a very smart guy, and he's passionate about the game. ...
“He's a great leader. Kasey's not the most athletic guy, but he's probably one of the smartest soccer players in terms of his angles and shutting things down before things happen and organizing his defense and making sure that all of his business in front of him is taken care of. That's a huge thing. And then he makes the saves that he needs to make.
“He's a keeper who doesn't make mistakes, and he makes everybody around him better.
“And he's a great guy. Kasey's been through the ringer. He's got a million stories, and he'll tell stories all night. He's been around a long time, so he's got a lot to talk about.”