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Player Profile: Michael Gspurning

He may have been third in the league in Goalkeeper of the Year and Newcomer of the Year voting, but goalkeeper Michael Gspurning was firmly No. 1 in Seattle Sounders FC fans’ hearts this season (or at least in the top three, based on the Community Rankings). Without him, the team struggled; with him, it won its first playoff series in franchise history.

Otto Greule Jr

Replacing a legend isn't easy. However, Michael Gspurning acquitted himself well in his first season taking over from Kasey Keller.

#3 - Michael Gspurning (Nickname: Cerberus)
National Affiliation Austria Age 31
Years Pro 13 Years Sounder 1
Position Goalkeeper Role Typical Goofy Keeper
MLS (+Playoff) Stats
Apps Starts Mins GA GAA Saves
25 25 2205 19 0.76 76
Non-League Stats
Apps Starts Mins GA GAA Saves
3 3 300 4 1.33 9

The numbers tell a compelling story in Gspurning's case. He conceded 15 goals in the regular season, playing in 21 games. His replacements when he was injured, Bryan Meredith and Andrew Weber, conceded 18 goals in 13 starts.

Good goalkeepers are more than acrobats. Excellent shot-stopping ability is expected at the highest levels; it isn't enough to point to outrageous saves as evidence of a goalkeeper's ability.

It's the little things that set good goalkeepers apart from great ones. Keller had these intangible qualities in spades, which is what allowed him to play at the highest levels until his 40s.

Technical Ability (Handling, Footwork, Shot Stopping): The competition with Nick Rimando in the MLS Cup Western Conference semifinals should be all the evidence necessary of Gspurning's tangible goalkeeping ability. He made big save after big save, going toe-to-toe and coming out one save better than the goalkeeper widely considered to be the best shot stopper in the league.

Taller goalkeepers don't often have to rely on their technique, and perhaps Gspurning could catch more often than he does. But especially for a big man, he has quick feet and an ability to both play the ball with them and move them into the right position to make saves.

Tactical Understanding (Decision Making): On April 28, 2012, in the Windy City, Gspurning came off his line to catch or punch no less than nine crosses in a 2-1 win at the Chicago Fire. It was a blustery day, and it was particularly memorable for the Austrian's timing off his line.

Tactical ability comes with practice, which a goalkeeper should get with national team caps and first-division European experience. This area of his game is what puts Gspurning among the elite goalkeepers in the league.

Leadership: That late April match in Chicago was also Gspurning's last full game before his hip injury. Less than two weeks later, Sounders FC started its nine-game MLS winless streak that lasted the entire month of June.

It was about this point when Gspurning's influence on his back line became apparent. Bryan Meredith and Andrew Weber's ability wasn't what made this a tough time; it was Gspurning's absence that gave Seattle's opponents more clean looks at goal.

Coaches often talk about a team having confidence in a goalkeeper, and Seattle's defense seemed to have plenty of confidence in 6-foot, 5-inch Gspurning.

Physical Skills: Being 6'5" makes everything a little easier in a position that demands one person cover an 8-foot-by-8-yard space. It also makes fighting through traffic a little easier, and although Rimando and Jon Busch do just fine with a smaller frame, Gspurning also uses his lankiness to his advantage.

Best Case in 2013: Many Europeans need a bit of a learning curve when they join MLS. The goalkeeper position may be a bit different (Sporting Kansas City's Jimmy Nielsen comes to mind), but Gspurning made quite a splash his first season. With a healthy 2013, the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award is not out of the question — nor is a long-awaited return to the Austrian national team.

2012 Player Profiles
1 ?? 2 ??
3 Michael Gspurning 4 Fredy Montero
5 Mauro Rosales 6 Jeff Parke
7 Brad Evans 8 Christian Tiffert
9 Jhon Kennedy Hurtado 10 Leo Gonzalez
11 Adam Johansson 12 David Estrada
13 Zach Scott 14 Patrick Ianni
15 Andy Rose 16 Marc Burch
17 Alex Caskey 18 Mario Martinez
19 Steve Zakuani 20 Sammy Ochoa
21 Alvaro Fernandez 22 Servando Carrasco
23 Cordell Cato 24 Roger Levesque
25 Bryan Meredith 26 Mike Seamon
27 Marcus Hahnemann 28 Andrew Weber
29 Josh Ford 30 Christian Sivebaek
31 Andrew Duran 32 Daniel Steres
33 Michael Tetteh 34 Babayele Sodade

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