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Kasey Keller's Sounders Tenure Approaching His Longest With Any Club

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SEATTLE - JUNE 05:  Goalkeeper Kasey Keller #18 of the Seattle Sounders FC directs play against the New England Revolution on June 5, 2010 at Qwest Field in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
SEATTLE - JUNE 05: Goalkeeper Kasey Keller #18 of the Seattle Sounders FC directs play against the New England Revolution on June 5, 2010 at Qwest Field in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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There's a tradition in American sports to fret and argue over which team a player's legacy is most correctly attached to. Even in the era of free agency, in which players migrate from coast to coast with some regularity, a player will engineer a symbolic trade back to a favored team for one day to finish a career there or agonize in the decision over which cap or jersey to wear into a Hall of Fame.

Domestic soccer is more forgiving of player movement, as the vast number of leagues of various qualities in different countries has led to a tradition of players moving clubs and borders every few seasons as they progress or decline in quality and reputation. But there's still an inherent pleasure in associating a player with a single club that can be heard every time fans speak of — for example — Ryan Giggs' 20 years at Manchester United. Even a player like Thierry Henry — who is a football tourist compared to Giggs' stability — will always be associated with Arsenal, no matter what he does with New York (or did or didn't do with Barcelona).

When Kasey Keller chose to sign with the Sounders in late 2008, it was described as a swan-song contract to cap off a long and storied career. That's a fair characterization. Keller's already announced that this will be his last season with the club, and it's hard to imagine that he'll lace up his boots professionally for someone else afterwards. He's been open about his desire to return to his roots and give his family some stability. But the usually unspoken implication of those who described it as a final contract was that his time with the Sounders would be a sort of appendix on a career that was defined elsewhere. That when fans around the world think of Kasey Keller's club career, they'll associate him instinctively with a team like Tottenham or Borussia Mönchengladbach.

But it may surprise you to learn that Keller is only one Sounders FC appearance away from equaling his total with Borussia. And assuming he stays healthy and starts the rest of the season, he will surpass his Tottenham total. And if the Sounders can qualify for enough games (via the playoffs, USOC, CCL group stages, etc), he has an outside shot of surpassing his totals from Arlo White's beloved Leicester City from his formative years.

Here's a list of the clubs Keller's played for, in order of appearances in competitive matches.

Years Appearances
Millwall 1991 - 1996 202
Leicester City 1996 - 1999 125
Tottenham Hotspur 2001 - 2005 99
Borussia M'gladbach 2004 - 2007 78
Seattle Sounders FC 2009 - 2011 77
Rayo Vallecano 1999 - 2001 75?
Fulham 2007 - 2008 14
Portland Timbers 1989 10
Southampton 2004 - 2005 4

Note that his Wikipedia page includes only starts in domestic league competition, but I can't see any sensible reason to include only that, so I did the research to include all competitive starts, which includes league games, domestic cups, and continental competition. As dataphobic as most of the soccer world is, that was actually a pretty difficult task. I owe a big debt to the people at The Millwall History Files for his Millwall stats. Their stats pages should be an inspiration to anyone interested in football data and I'd be delighted if someone did for the Sounders what they've done for the Lions. Soccerbase was also very helpful, as was Linguasport for Spanish League data. The only totals I'm not 100% sure on are for Rayo Vallecano, since I couldn't get data on starters for the 2000 or 2001 Copas del Rey or the 2001 UEFA Cup. I've been generous and just assumed that Keller started all of those games, though he likely didn't.

As you can see, he'll equal his BMG total on opening night versus the Galaxy. He'll likely pass his Tottenham totals sometime around midseason. Exactly how many games he has the potential to start depends on how the team does. The maximum available would be (assuming my math is right) 51. That's 34 league games, 5 playoff games (if we make it to the final as a wildcard), 4 US Open Cup games (ditto), 2 CCL preliminary games, and 6 CCL group matches. We could play further in the Champions League, but any games after the group stages would be in 2012, when Keller would presumably no longer be with the team. If he starts all 51 of those games, that would put him at 128, which would be second only to his 4-year stint with Millwall, which launched his club career. I think it would be fair at that point to say that the Sounders are as attached to the legacy of Kasey Keller — arguably the best American goalkeeper ever — as any other club he's played for.