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May 29, 2007

Keller ponders offers, retirement

Longtime U.S. goalkeeper Kasey Keller said he might retire if the right offer does not come along.
Longtime U.S. goalkeeper Kasey Keller said he might retire if the right offer does not come along.
Photo by Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Kasey Keller has been a mainstay with the United States national team for more than a decade. Now that his club career has come to a crossroads, he is faced with a difficult decision - take higher pay with another European club or hold out for a right deal to come home to the U.S.

Keller is in camp with the United States national team as the squad prepares to defend its 2005 Gold Cup trophy. Keller took time to talk to about his club future.

LASN: Did the decision by Borussia Moenchengladbach to not offer you a contract surprise you?

Kasey Keller: It's so funny, because it was publicized so wrong from what the situation actually was. They had asked me, several months previously, and I just told them that I couldn't make a commitment at that stage. Later, I had a long talk with the club and we realized that there was no way that we were going to come to an agreement. It came out a little bit wrong from what actually happened, but it doesn't matter. The bottom line is that I'm not staying and it doesn't matter how it was worded.

LASN: You saw it coming, then?

Keller: No. It was a situation where I needed to be talked into staying. It was apparent that the club wasn't going in a direction that would have influenced me to stay. If I'd have heard that the money was there, that we were going straight back up, we're going to have one year in the second division, but don't worry, because we're bringing in players and we're doing this and that but that wasn't the case. When I didn't hear that, there was no point in continuing. But because of the relationship that I had with the fans, we needed to come out and make it clear that I wasn't staying.

LASN: It is similar to the situation with Major League Soccer - they offer you something, but then later their interest cools?

Keller: Their interest didn't cool at all. They put out an offer that wasn't acceptable. Most of the American guys in Europe, we'd all love to come back and play in MLS at some stage in our careers. But the offer I got from MLS - I got an offer from a Bundesliga team that was three times that to sit on the bench, to not even play for the team. There's a market value of what your worth is. I had an offer that was twice what I was offered to come home to MLS from a team in Romania. If my net value is worth twice in Romania what it is in MLS, you can't really expect guys to come home and play for free. It's not a dig on MLS - it's just a fact. A lot of the guys, if they could get into the same situation that Claudio got into, then no problem. You'd see a lot of the top guys come back and love to play in MLS, but if you're getting offers that are a fifth or sixth what you could make overseas, that's different. This is called professional sports. It's not 'Let's just play for the love of playing.' That's called amateur sports. You have to think things over and make the best decision for you and your family at that time.

LASN: Would you like to come to MLS?

Keller: I would love to. I've spoken with MLS basically for the last five or six months at a time. The last offer I got just wasn't acceptable to come home. I had a friend of mine, a Borussia Moenchengladbach teammate who went back and just signed with his hometown team in Denmark. He took a lot less money, but he was going home. He had built a house there and he fell right into a good situation. Last time I checked, there was no team in Olympia, Washington or McCall, Idaho, where my two houses are. I would still have to move, get a new house, set everything up, put my kids in school, do all that stuff.
The conversation that I had with MLS and the teams I spoke to was 'If I make a commitment to move my whole life, then I need that same commitment from MLS.' It just never got to that point. The offer, I guess it was okay, but it wasn't something that was going to get me to move my family someplace else.

LASN: Was it Real Salt Lake that was interested again?

Keller: There were a couple of teams that I spoke to who said, 'This is what we have.' That wasn't going to work. Then I got into another conversation with Real Salt Lake where I thought that had been cleared up, but it ended up being the same sort of stuff.

LASN: Would you be interested in joining a team in the Pacific Northwest if MLS expands there?

Keller I'm 37 years old. They'd better expand real quick. In two to three years, if they're looking for a coach, then I might be their guy. It's the waiting in the meantime, but I would be interested. Under some of the current offers that I'd gotten from MLS, if that team had been in Seattle or Portland, then maybe I'd have done it just because it would have been moving home, and knowing that this would be a place where I would be living possibly.

LASN:What offers have you considered?

Keller: There's been three or four possibilities, a few abroad, and a couple here in the States, but it just wasn't right. I'm waiting for something that feels right. My kids have been in three different schools. They're nine years old. I've played in three different countries. I have no problem moving and starting all over again, but not just for the sake of continuing playing. It has to be the right situation for myself and for my family. September first is the transfer deadline in Europe. If it's not done by then, it's not going to happen. I'd like to have it done tomorrow, but these things take time. If I was 32, this would be stressful, but right now, it's okay. I'm not just jumping into something. If I was, I'd have taken one of the earlier offers - okay, no problem, I'll just continue playing. For one of them, I wouldn't even have had to move. But it has to be right. I'm being a little bit picky, which I think maybe I deserve that.

LASN: How long will you keep going?

Keller If I'm playing at the level that people expect from me, then I'll keep going. If that level drops, and I can't meet what my expectations are for myself, what other people's expectations are, then I'll stop. I don't want to play past my ability. I don't want to do that. I've had too successful of a career to let it sour in the last six months or a year, just for the sake of extending my career.

LASN: Bob Bradley has named Tim Howard the number one for the Gold Cup. How does that make you feel?

Keller: It was to be expected. I'm coming off an injury. I'm just glad to continue to keep playing. Bob and I have had this conversation. As long as I'm still playing at the level people are used to seeing me play at, we'll keep doing it. There's always competition. If you play poorly, people will always look for someone else. They'll give someone else a shot. Obviously, Tim is that heir apparent, after getting out of that Man U situation and establishing himself at Everton and having a great year. I'm very happy for him. It makes sense that Bob is going to be looking at Tim for the future. But I'm still here, making sure that transition is done the right way.

LASN: When you say the deadline for the right situation is September, does that mean you'd go on a hiatus if you can't find that situation by then?

Keller: I'll retire if I can't find what I'm looking for. I'm not going to drag my family around just for the sake of playing there. If it's not right, it's not right. We'll figure it out after that.

LASN: Would you play for a USL D1 team?

Keller: No.
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