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.
Wanted: Someone to supervise 300 kids 24/7 during summer, take 22 rowdy college boys cross-country to win a soccer championship in the fall, marry a couple on Saturday, christen a newborn on Sunday, keynote a corporate speech to hundreds first thing Monday and pull votes for a stadium initiative on Tuesday. Ten fingers not necessary. Sense of humor a must.
Unless your name happens to be Charles Clifford McCrath, there’s no need to apply.
On Saturday, Feb. 11, a true treasure of Seattle and soccer, Cliff McCrath, will be inducted into Seattle Pacific University’s Falcon Legends Hall of Fame. McCrath knows the drill. After all, it’s his 10th such enshrinement around the country.
Unlike the others, however, this will be celebrated on his turf, where since arriving 47 years ago he grew to be an outsized figure capable of accomplishing amazing feats for a sport that, at times, struggled to take hold.
For every 10 kids out there dreaming of the day they deliver the big game-winning goal, there’s one moppet visualizing the sensational dive that saves the day.
These Tim Howard and Hope Solo wannabes may see themselves flinging themselves from post to post, effectively serving as a force field denying balls entry to the ol’ onion bag.
Sometimes dreams come true, such as Kasey Keller’s signature performance versus Brazil in 1998. He saved everything, secured the shutout and the U.S. won, 1-0. But a busy day at the keeper’s office more often ends in defeat, such as Howard’s fate following his World Cup record 16 stops against Belgium.
So it should come no real surprise that in tying the Sounders FC record with 10 saves at Columbus, Stefan Frei was unable save the day. In fact, given that Frei’s made a total of 18 saves in the previous three matches, it’s a bit of a wonder that Seattle had won three straight.