The hunt for Arlo White's replacement ends with Kasey Keller announced as the analyst and Ross Fletcher (formerly of BBC Sport) hired as the new voice of Seattle Sounders FC. Oddly enough Fletcher lived just minutes away from White in the East Midlands. The transition back to a two-man booth will be smoothed by the presence of a man that Fletcher simply calls a "hero." When talking about what Keller will bring to the fans Fletcher answered during today's conference call;
He has such a resonance with the fans. They'll hang off his every word, hopefully they'll hang off my every word as well. And it's a brilliant chance to be hopefully one of the top double acts in the MLS. He'll bring the experience and hopefully I'll bring the expertise and enthusiasm from the commentary point of view.
Kasey Keller via press release shared the excitement and the desire to something with which he has a little experience already.
It's exciting for me to be involved with our broadcasts and stay involved with the club," said Keller. "I enjoyed my past experiences with broadcasting in England under a range of scenarios, and it's appealing to be joining the Sounders in this capacity. It's going to be fun.
Fletcher has a couple previous Seattle connections. The first through Arlo White and the second through a love of the NBA he acquired as a youth even mentioning during the call that he had a poster of Shawn Kemp winning a dunk contest and the Gary Payton/Kemp Sonics being one of the best teams of their day. Fletcher hopes that his knowledge of American sport can influence how he calls the game of soccer and "take the edge off."
If there's one thing that is clear through the conversation with Fletcher it is that there are a couple things that he loves about the Seattle Sounders.
When I was looking at the job and seeing if it was a possibility the one thing that really, really stuck out for me was the absolute passion that Sounders fans have for their team. To see that they get 38,000 week in week out just rings true so much about what I heard about that place. It's an exciting place to be. The city itself is fantastic.
From the organization and it's connection to the Seattle Seahawks, to the fan passion and his ability to reconnect to a single team (at age 22 he started a 7 year run calling about 400 Derby County games) the now 32 year old spoke of Seattle like an instant fan. Not just of an exciting soccer team, but a community of millions.
It strikes me as a place of real culture. There's a great vibe about it. It seems in the short time that I spent there that it has a very easy going feel even though it's a city of several million people and that really, really appeals to me. I thought ‘yeah this is somewhere me and my wife can live easily' and since coming over from the time I spent I've learned from people in the UK Americans as well they've all said ‘you are going to one of the top US cities' I'm also a big skier that's another real kind of plus as well with all the ranges you have nearby and up over the border in Canada as well. The lifestyle is just fantastic. The place is fantastic. The soccer club is fantastic. It's just the perfect fit.
In preparing for his role that starts in less than two months Fletcher is already studying the team and its players through DVDs provided by Arlo White. Asked if there is a player that he looks forward to calling their goals or moves his answer was simply Mauro Rosales. Maybe not simply;
Obviously in preparing for the role and checking out the side Arlo very kindly threw me some DVDs my way as well as the calls on the website. Mauro Rosales is the guy that really stuck out for me. Not just because of his pedigree, but because that guy has skills. He can bring so much to the table from the right hand side. He has that spark of genius. He strikes me as the guy that can change the game . And you need those kind of match winners in any team if you are going to be successful. I'm really, really excited that he's going to be staying longer and that he's got that multi-year contract with Sounders ... He was the first guy that really stood out to me. You can pick out people like Fredy Montero and provide and see if he can get 20 goals. If there was one person it was him. It's a very talented squad. I think that has to be emphasized as well. It's very much a team game. He's a little bit special.
The team wasn't happy to lose Arlo to NBC, so in their search for a replacement they've found something a bit different according to majority owner Joe Roth;
Ross and Kasey will bring a new dimension and perspective to Sounders FC broadcasts," said Sounders FC owner Joe Roth. "The combination of Ross' experience and Kasey's knowledge gives us a sensational 1-2 punch which our fans deserve.
Ross Fletcher already caught the Sounders bug. He mentioned that he bleeds Rave Green. He gushes about the organization. He is a man that Arlo White said to Sounder at Heart via email
[He] is a top pro who has experience of calling EPL games for national radio, and also building a connection with fans on a local level as he did in Derby. We have been friends for many years. He is talented and diligent, and he knows this role is more than just 90 minutes of announcing once a week.
And according to fans in the UK Ross Fletcher is God.
Seattle didn't hire Fletcher because of his British accent. He was hired because of his respect for the organization, the fans and to work for a team that he says has an appeal on his side of the pond.
[W]hen it comes to fanbase, when it comes to passion, when it comes to doing things right compared to the rest of the clubs Sounders are number one. I think that message is coming home to the UK.
New keeper. New rightback. New voice. New analyst. Same Sounders.