Kasey Keller: American Soccer’s Greatest World Traveler

usa gk kasey keller

Player Profile: Kasey Keller

Date of Birth: 29/11/1969
Height:
1.88 m (6 ft 2 in)
Position:
Goalkeeper
National Team:
United States of America (USMNT)
International Caps:
102
International Goals:
0

Club Career

Kasey Keller’s incredible club career started in 1989 with the Portland Timbers, then in the Western Soccer Alliance in the United States. In that short 10 game season, he allowed just four goals and was named league MVP.

His success as a student-athlete at the University of Portland, combined with his time with the Timbers lead to his selection to the U.S. National team ahead of the 1990 World Cup.

Despite not having a professional contract for nearly 3 seasons, the English First Division side Millwall were impressed with his work with the USMNT and signed him.

Between May of 1992 and August of 1996, Keller made over 200 appearances for the London based club. During the 1992-93 season, Keller made 51 consecutive starts, keeping 16 clean sheets in the process. His fine form saw him voted Player of the Year by the supporters at The Den.

After the 1995-96 season, Millwall was relegated to the Second Division and Keller was sold to Premier League side Leicester City for $900,000. During the next few seasons, with Keller in goal, Leicester established themselves in the Premier League with 3 consecutive top 10 finishes.

Keller’s first professional silverware came with the Midlands-based club when the Foxes lifted the 1997 League Cup. They made the final again in 1999 but were defeated by Tottenham Hotspur thanks to a last-minute goal.

In the summer of 1999, Keller made the move to newly-promoted Rayo Vallecano in La Liga. Madrid was Keller’s home for the next to seasons with Rayo. In the 99-00 season, Keller was instrumental in Rayo finishing in the top half of the La Liga table as a newly promoted side.

During the 2000-01 season, he helped Rayo to the quarterfinals of the UEFA Cup by posting four consecutive shutouts.

In August 2001, Keller moved back to England when the same team who defeated him in the ’99 League Cup Final, Tottenham Hotspur, signed him on a free transfer.

During his first season in North London, Keller was mainly subjected to backup duty behind starter Neil Sullivan. However, by the 2002-03 season, Keller had won the starting job. In fact, Keller played every minute of the 02-03 and 03-04 seasons for Spurs.

This all changed at the start of the 04-05 season when future England No. 1 Paul Robinson came to Spurs. So quick was Keller’s fall from the starting job that in November of that season he was loaned out to Southampton for a month as they struggled with an injury crisis and were in desperate need of a goalkeeper. He played 4 times on his month-long loan at St. Mary’s.

With his job taken by Robinson, Keller moved to German club Borussia Monchengladbach during the January 2005 transfer window. His career got off to a great start in the Bundesliga with a clean sheet in his first appearance.

Keller played every minute of the second half of that season during which he kept seven clean sheets and helped keep ‘Gladbach from being relegated.

In 2006 he became just the second American to ever be named captain of a top-level German club, the other being U.S. National Team teammate Claudio Reyna. Under Keller’s captaincy, ‘Gladbach finished in the top half of the table.

At the beginning of the 2007-08 season, and at the age of 37, Keller returned to the Premier League with Fulham. The plan was for Keller to be a backup to starter Antti Niemi, but that didn’t last long as persistent injuries saw Keller given the starting spot. That is until Keller suffered his own injury.

Throughout the rest of the 07-08 season, Niemi and Keller traded starts depending on injuries and form. Despite constant changes in the goalkeeper position, Fulham avoided relegation with a win on the last day of the season.

Late in his career, and with a new Major League Soccer team forming in his home town of Seattle, Keller made the move back to America. Despite his advanced age, his quality shown through. Keller set an MLS record for the number of minutes without a goal to start an MLS season.

During his time with the Seattle Sounders, Keller won 3 U.S. Open Cups, in 2009, 2010, and 2011. In his final professional season he was named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.

Over the course of a 22-year career, Keller played 609 games and was the first American goalkeeper to become a regular starter in the top leagues in Germany, England, and Spain.

International Career

Kasey Keller’s first international cap came in 1990 against Colombia, while he was still a college student at the University of Portland. Later that year, he was selected for the U.S. National team that played at the 1990 World Cup in Italy. He did not see the field and was the second choice behind Tony Meola.

Despite being a goalkeeper in the English First Division, Keller was excluded from the 1994 World Cup in the United States as Tony Meola and Brad Friedel were favored over him.

Keller was back in the squad for the 1998 World Cup when the United States didn’t earn a single point in the group stage and were quickly eliminated from the tournament.

Despite their failings in the ‘98 World Cup, the Keller-led Americans scored a famous 1-0 victory over Brazil in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. During the match, Keller “stood on his head” as the saying goes. His performance prompted Brazilian legend Romario to claim “That is the best performance by a goalkeeper I have ever seen.” High praise from a global icon.

Keller went on to trade the number 1 job with Brad Friedel over the next few years. Despite the job-share, Keller ranks second in caps and wins for an American goalkeeper behind Tim Howard. Keller remains the nation’s all-time leader in clean sheets with 47.

During his time with the national team, Keller was a part of 3 CONCACAF Gold Cup-winning sides.

He was a part of four World Cup rosters, a first for an American, a record he shared with teammate Claudio Reyna upon their inclusion in the 2006 squad.

He was named U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year 3 times, in 1997, 1999, and 2005.

Finally, in 2007 Keller retired from the national team, having made 102 appearances for the Stars and Stripes.

Where is Kasey Keller Now?

These days Kasey Keller covers commentary for Seattle Sounders broadcasts. He is also an assistant coach for a Seattle area high school soccer team.

Did you know? Interesting facts about Kasey Keller

– Kasey Keller was inducted into the United States National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2015.

– He lived in a 1,000-year-old castle outside of Dusseldorf when playing in Germany.

– Keller grew up on an egg farm in Olympia, Washington.