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Tony Meola: Michael Gspurning was outstanding last year; started strong again

Former United States national team shot-stopper Tony Meola was in town to do some promotional work and catch the first leg of the Cascadia Cup. Sounder at Heart caught up with him to discuss the goalkeeping situation in Seattle.

Tony Meola put on a surprise clinic (sponsored by Allstate) for a Seattle United club team while he was in town.
Tony Meola put on a surprise clinic (sponsored by Allstate) for a Seattle United club team while he was in town.

SEATTLE — U.S. legend Tony Meola was in town to do some promotional work for Allstate, an MLS sponsor. While he was around, he obliged me with a lengthy interview on all things national team-, goalkeeping- and Seattle-related.

Read the bulk of the interview at American Soccer Now, but here are a couple of tidbits that make more sense for our audience. (He discusses Sounders striker Eddie Johnson and his role with the Nats in the ASN Q&A, so be sure to check it out.)

What's the deal with the Seattle area producing so many quality goalkeepers? We've got Kasey Keller, Marcus Hahnemann, Tally Hall and, on the women's side, Hope Solo.

"They're used to the rain. They train in the rain, so when they go to good conditions, it's easier for them. (Laughs.) There's been a long line of guys. I don't know if it's just luck or if it's what you guys have got in the water up here, but they're very good for sure."

That seems to extend to goalkeeper coaches as well. Sounders FC goalkeeper coach Tom Dutra trained Keller and has been around forever. Kelly Bendixen trained Hall when he was younger. It seems like this is a pretty strong area for goalkeeper coaches as well.

"Yeah. It's been (that way) for years. Now that the game has changed a little bit, there were goalkeeper trainers for so long. There are a lot of goalkeeper trainers. With guys that have had experience in the league that are starting to train, now you've got goalkeeper coaches. There's a big difference for me. There are a lot of guys out there who can train.

"I was lucky; I had a guy in 1994 and beyond in Milutin Soskic who was a trainer, but he was a better coach. He'd been named the top goalkeeper in the (1962) World Cup for Yugoslavia. He could coach you. He could get in your head and know exactly what was going on all the time. (He knew) the pace of the game, how to make certain corrections.

"I think that's what we're getting more towards in the United States, guys that have played before in those positions in colleges and in lower-level leagues and MLS that are now coaching these kids, and I think there's a big difference between the two."

Michael Gspurning had a very good first season with the Sounders. He made the point that being over here makes it difficult for Europeans to be visible on the national team scene. What does he have to do to get back into the Austria picture?

"We have that issue, but it's a positive thing, in reverse. Everybody thinks, if you go to Europe, all of a sudden you're a national team player (for the U.S.) just based on the fact that you go to Europe or you go to Mexico or go someplace. I do know our system for viewing players is very good. The U.S. system and Klinsmann's staff - whether he uses Tab Ramos from the youth level, whether he uses his guys on the full-team level - they're seeing all these guys all the time.

"If (Gspurning) wanted to pick a spot in the country as far away from Austria as he could, he picked it. But yeah, he did have a good year. I thought he maybe struggled in the playoffs a little bit, even in the last game, but was outstanding all year. Started off again on fire. The reason they had an opportunity, for me, in this second leg (against Tigres) was because of his performance in the first leg down at Tigres a week ago.

"This year might be a little bit easier for him because I'm sure he's settled in with his family and living and training and driving around the city. All of that stuff just gets easier for him. We do (an Allstate Good Hands) goalkeeper picks every year, and he's a guy that's been on our list every week, I think. We had him as third to start the season in the league, so he's very good."

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