New Sounders goalkeeper has big gloves to fill

Jan 24, 2012, 9:02 AM | Updated: 10:35 am
Goalkeeper Michael Gspurning comes to the Sounders FC after playing professionally in Greece and in his native Austria. (Jane Gershovich/
(Jane Gershovich/

How do you replace America’s most decorated soccer player?

Local legend Kasey Keller hung up his goalkeeper’s gloves at the end of last season and will become a radio and television analyst during Sounders FC games.

Coach Sigi Schmid made it clear that you don’t replace Keller, but you find someone with experience to handle the pressure and expectations. That’s why Seattle spent nearly a year convincing 30-year-old Austrian Michael Gspurning to come play for them.

Gspurning played at the highest professional levels in his native country and in Greece. At 6-foot-5, he’s is a solid, dominant keeper, and a good penalty-stopper.

Speaking with Gspurning at the start of Sounders training camp in Renton this weekend, we found him to be engaging, with a good sense of humor.

“For sure, it is hard for me on a new team,” he said. “The last three years in Greece I was one of the leaders because I was the oldest foreign player. It was my role to help new guys to come into the team, so I’m used to it.”

While Gspurning enjoys the Greek people, he isn’t so high on their struggling economic system. Many times getting paid was an issue.

“If you go into the day and ask the club for something, they would say, ‘We’ll see tomorrow.’ This is the Greek way of life. I love the country, but here in Seattle it’s much more professional.”

The Sounders’ work ethic and hunger to win an MLS championship has also impressed the Austrian goalie. During an informal 11-on-11 session last week, his new teammates didn’t want to stop playing.

“It’s really good to move into the difficult running sessions when everyone is pushing one another,” he said. “I’m really glad to be on a team with a good spirit.”

You get the feeling Michael Gspurning likes his new club so much he’d like to be here a long time.

“I told (general manager) Adrian Hanauer, ‘This is really nice, everything is professional, everything is good. Maybe I never want to go home.'”

Sounds like a guy who can fill the size large gloves once worn by Kasey from Lacey.

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New Sounders goalkeeper has big gloves to fill