Even by standards 50 years ago it was a modest match day program. Yet it matched the surroundings and, some might say, the fare that was on display that afternoon.
Still, it was a start. Turning the page, maybe spectators took pause from watching the stocky, commanding figure standing astride of the benches, to let the significance of the day soak in.
In a simple font, probably prepared on someone’s personal typewriter, flow the words: “We are sure that this game will be a milestone in the history of soccer in our state.” It goes on: “It is with pleasure and a feeling of satisfaction we are able to act as hosts to the first all-professional soccer game held in our state.”
It’s actually easy to picture the setting today. West Seattle Stadium sits virtually untouched, not only in the 50 years since but the 80 since being erected. The main stand, wooden and covered, could serve as a stunt double for a mid-20th Century British ground. The weather on that February 11, 1968 was practically spring-like: Bright sunshine and mild temperatures after a cold, soggy start to the new year. The grass is a bit long and ungroomed while the ground itself is soft from repeated rains.
Arriving jetlagged and greeted by some unlikely L.A. rainfall, Kasey Keller was actually very much in favor of postponing what would become the signature performance of his storied life between the sticks. As it turned out, he would have to keep his date with destiny.
On the morning of Feb. 10, 1998, came the all-clear call; the United States would indeed face Brazil in a Gold Cup semifinal that evening in the Coliseum, what some would later term the Miracle on Grass.
This weekend marks the 20th anniversary of that occasion, when everything aligned to create some magic that has yet to be replicated. Coincidentally, the two of the principals in pulling off that caper–Keller and Preki–have been reunited in the Puget Sound soccer community.
“I remember laughing to myself later, after the game,” recalls Keller, “that this could quite possibly be the game of my career, and I hadn’t wanted it to go forward. I wanted it delayed.”
Keller, then just 27 and the first-choice keeper for Leicester City, has flown all night after posting back-to-back Premiership shutouts of Man United and Leeds. It was a compromise between U.S. Soccer and Martin O’Neill, the Leicester manager; Keller would miss the two group games but arrive in time for the knockout round, the day before as it turned out.