We got about 20 minutes on the phone today with Sounders coach Sigi Schmid, talking about the signing of new goalkeeper Michael Gspurning and other off-season personnel moves.
Here's most of that conversation:
On the pursuit of Gspurning, which he says began while on a European trip with his wife about a year ago: We wanted to bring in an experienced keeper, a veteran keeper, a keeper who brought some experience with him.
On if Gspurning will be the starter: Our expectation is that he’s going to be able to start. That’s the reason that we’re bringing him in. Obviously you do that with a lot of players. When you sign a player you have an expectation that the player is going to be able to do this and that. Sometimes players fulfill expectations, sometimes they exceed them, and sometimes they fall below them. But our expectation is that he’s a veteran goalkeeper who’s been through some pressure games. He’s a guy that if he plays to the level that we feel he’s capable of playing he should be our No. 1 goalkeeper. But as with anything, nothing gets handed to anybody and you’ve still got to go out there and perform. We’re confident in his character and his willingness to perform.
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On finding a veteran to replace Kasey Keller: You don’t replace Kasey Keller, you look for another goalkeeper. Keller is an icon in American soccer and he’s always going to have a special place in this club. … But I think to come in as a young goalkeeper with this being your first starting experience, the pressure can increase if you end up having a misplay in the early couple of games or having a bad game and then all of a sudden (sportswriters) will begin comparing him to Keller, and the guy might start reading that and might get nervous. So we thought it might be better to get a veteran guy who had his own reputation and established himself already because then it makes it a little bit easier and the shadow that Kasey leaves behind will be a little easier for that player to deal with.
On his backup keepers: We have Meredith, we have Ford, and we’re still very very high on them. So we expect them to definitely be part and parcel of what we’re doing here in the future. We’re not going to close our eyes. There are a couple of goalkeepers who have been backups in other places that are possibly available that we might bring in in preseason. So you might see another goalkeeper around, maybe a couple of goalkeepers who have had a few more years of experience in the MLS as backups. But we want to make sure we’re picking the right guy and doing what’s best for the club.
On selecting a 2012 captain to replace Keller: That will work itself out in preseason.
On style differences between Keller and Gspurning: Certainly his size. He’s a little bit more of a presence on cross balls as a result of that. He’s also younger. Kasey, when he was younger, also came for a lot more cross balls than he did maybe as he got older. So his size is going to help him in that regard. … He’s a guy who maybe encourages that back pass a little bit more. He wants that ball played back to him. He’s willing to play out of the back. So playing with his feet might be something where he’s a little bit different than Kasey as well. We hope is organization is going to be as good. There a lot to measure up to there, because Kasey is a very good organizer of the back four. And obviously the ability to make saves at key moments of games. That’s something that we’re looking for from him as well, and that’s something that we saw in all the games that we watched.
On the club's interest in Marcus Hahnemann: We definitely looked into it. We had conversations with Marcus. The situation is one where Marcus’ situation as a returning national team player he would be an allocation, and we’re way down on the allocation list.
If this is likely to be the biggest foreign signing of the off-season: You never say never. You don’t know what’s going to happen or what’s going to come down the line. We wanted to take care of our goalkeeping situation: That was a priority we’ve had and I think we’ve addressed that need. Now we have to look at the other things that we want to do. We’re always listening and we’re always looking to see what players are available, so there’s always possibilities of a big name still coming on board and maybe some significant moves being made. But it might also stay a lot the way it is. It really depends on the opportunities that present themselves and if it’s something that we think betters our club. So you can’t say this is going to be the biggest signing, you can’t say it is not. You can never say never.