Keller and the vets leading Sounders playoff charge

Kasey Keller (ISIphotos.com) 

Photo by Michael Pimental/ISIphotos.com


By JOSE M. ROMERO

Back in June, on the eve of the World Cup, there were questions being raised about whether Seattle Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller had much more left in the tank at age 40. The Sounders floundered to 15 points and were coming off a 3-2 home loss to lowly D.C. United.

Keller had a bad game that day. He was responsible for one, if not two of DCU's goals, and after the match, he pledged to work extremely hard to get better.

As if a U.S. soccer legend had to apologize for letting his team down, after all the times he'd saved the Sounders and his national team. That's Keller though. Mr. Accountability.

And Mr. Pledge Keeper. Keller has picked up his game, so have the Sounders, and after this past Saturday's 1-0 win at Chicago, Seattle is in position for its second playoff berth in two seasons of existence. Only one of the Sounders' four remaining MLS opponents is in mentionable postseason contention, Kansas City.

Veteran Blaise N'kufo sent in a goal, a shot deflected off of Fire defender C.J. Brown, in the 88th minute that won the game and three points for the Sounders. The move N'Kufo put on Brown was just a crafty shot fake, taking Brown off his feet and off-balance, then N'Kufo hit the ball hard enough for a re-direct that eluded the goalkeeper. 

One veteran with a rope-a-dope move on another. 

"Basically got lucky on the deflection, but I've scored many goals like that in my career," N'kufo said.

The Swiss international with a ton of big-game experience has helped shoulder the scoring responsibility that seemed to be almost entirely in the hands of young Fredy Montero.

Keller shined in goal. When the Sounders' defenders hesitated expecting an offsides whistle in the third minute, Keller stoned the Fire's Marco Pappa with a kick-save. Keller stopped another Pappa blast in extra time of the first half from short distance.

Those were the two biggest of a five-save night for Keller.

"I think it was a day where everyone did their job and I was called upon to make a few saves, and I was able to make them," Keller said after the game. "It was nice."

During their run of seven wins, one loss and three draws in the past 11 MLS matches, the Sounders have had contributions from other vets. The quartet of James Riley, Patrick Ianni, Jeff Parke and Leo Gonzalez leads a back line that has three straight shutouts and allowed only six goals in those 11 matches.

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16 Responses to Keller and the vets leading Sounders playoff charge

  1. SeattleStan says:

    Great job as always Jose.

  2. Terry says:

    If you look at the team that was in the cellar two months ago, you see a team that was without Jaqua, and Alonso. A team with Ljundberg demanding the ball in the middle. The only up-top striker was Montero. Now they have their best holding midfielder back, a world cup mid-fielder in Fernandez, along with Jaqua back. Top it all off with Blaise Nkufo to hold the ball and score. This giving Montero and Zakuani more space. The last 10 games are very similar with Dallas, however Dallas have just started to click. The Sounders are a completely different team and if you look at their lineup, Look Out! Forget overall points and form. This is a team that if started the season, would have 60 points right now.

  3. EmeraldCityUltra says:

    I can’t take you seriously until you spell his name correctly.

    Nkufo.

  4. Kaiser says:

    Great article. Wish you have mentioned more about how Sigi has done a great job of bringing this team together post Llundberg. This is a good side. As a Galaxy fan I hope they are not our first round matchup, because thier speed scares me.

    Nice job, Jose.

  5. carl says:

    Title sounds like an Elton John song.

    K-K-K-Keller and the vets…

  6. Hopper says:

    After the first 10 games this season, things didn’t look good for the Sounders, so the fact they’ve managed to turn things around the way they have is pretty amazing. Keep in mind they’ve been doing this without Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Brad Evans, but surprisingly enough, getting rid of Ljungberg seemed to do the trick.

    Plus, Jaqua hasn’t been good this year, and how Sturgis continues to get starts makes no sense to me when you have a guy like Alvaro Fernandez who can play central midfield.

    Despite all of this, Seattle is a good bet to make the playoffs, and they’re playing in the U.S. Open Cup final next week (at home no less).

    Not bad for a second-year team.

  7. hacksaw vs. swaybar says:

    sturgis plays really well with alonso. that is the connection there. and alvaro fernandez is better out right or left. sturgis has been getting a bad rap, but i believe he has done a great job in central mid. just as well as if not better than FL10 ever did. although his corners could be a bit better.
    go sounders, i love seeing this push.

  8. Charles says:

    Not exactly like Ljungberg’ corners were that good.

    Ljungberg didn’t do what it takes to win. He wasn’t good at forward and in mid he refused to help the team defend. Sturgis might not be the biggest talent, but at least he does what it takes.

    Not a coincidence at all the Chicago is getting crushed with him getting playing time while Seattle has completely turned it around.

  9. Michael F. SBI Mafia Original says:

    Keller is an American Hero. Simple as that.

  10. JJ says:

    Truest statement ever made on SBI.

  11. Shadowdub says:

    Keller really has been outstanding in the second half. I was pretty down on him after his poor showings in the rout by the Galaxy and the home loss to DCU.

  12. Hopper says:

    Are you guys serious about Sturgis? He’s has been terrible this year — probably our biggest weakness on the field. Did you watch the last game against Chicago? He was a turnover machine. Practically every time he touched the ball, it resulted in a needless giveaway.

    He barely gets by defensively, and offensively, he has no ideas on the field. He’s in over his head at the MLS level. Hopefully one of the expansion teams will take him.

  13. Zack Lewis says:

    Another move that has been mercifully omitted is the removal of Tyrone Marshall from the back line.

  14. fred garvin says:

    Spend more time watching the game.. Sturgis has been key in our mid since FL quit.

  15. Yeah, and as much as I like to mock Parke, he’s really done well. I thought losing Hurtado was the end of the season.

  16. Big Smoke says:

    I can’t take you seriously until you know what the definition of “spelling” is.

    It’s not a spelling issue; it’s a PUNCTUATION issue. He spells the name perfectly fine. Also, I’ve seen it both ways. ESPN Soccernet has it punctuated that way, as do many other sources.