No one is going to confuse new Sounders FC goalkeeper Michael Gspurning with the man he will try to replace.
The Austrian native, whose signing was announced Wednesday, is 12 years younger and 3 inches taller than Kasey Keller, who retired at the end of last season.
Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said he believes those differences will show up on the pitch.
“He’s a little bit more of a presence on cross balls as a result of (being 6-foot-5),” Schmid said. “He’s also younger. Kasey, when he was younger, also came for a lot more cross balls than he did maybe as he got older. ... He’s a guy who maybe encourages that back pass a little bit more. He wants that ball played back to him. He’s willing to play out of the back. So playing with his feet might be something where he’s a little bit different than Kasey, as well. We hope his organization is going to be as good ... and obviously the ability to make saves at key moments of games. ... That’s something that we saw in all the games that we watched.”
The Sounders have been watching Gspurning (pronounced guh-SHPURN-ing) since late November and early December 2010. While vacationing in Europe, Schmid asked an agent about available goalkeepers. The agent’s first suggestion fell through when he re-signed with his own club. Then the agent suggested Gspurning, a 30-year-old keeper from Graz, Austria, who was playing his fourth season with Skoda Xanthi FC of Greece.
He played 89 matches there, including a career-high 29 in 2009-10. In 2008-09, he recorded 16 shutouts in 26 matches and set the Greece Super League record with eight consecutive road shutouts.
The Sounders were impressed enough to bring Gspurning to Seattle in August to watch the CONCACAF Champions League play-in victory against San Francisco FC of Panama.
“Everything impressed me,” Gspurning said. “From the moment I was there I was thinking, ‘Yeah, this is a good possibility for me to play professional soccer, to make the next step in my career.’ ”
With three other professional stops behind him, as well as three appearances with the Austrian national team, Gspurning is respectful but apparently not intimidated about following Keller.
“It doesn’t help me if I (think) ‘Kasey’s the hero, I have to be like Kasey,’ ” he said. “This is the wrong way to face the situation. ... I have my way of playing. I have to bring my performance. If I play like the last year in Greece, we will have a lot of success also. ... After a few months, people will say, ‘Hey, we had Kasey. He is an idol. He is a legend. But now we have Michael playing, and he is also great.’ ”
Contract terms were not announced, but Gspurning said he hopes to remain in Seattle at least four seasons.
Schmid said Gspurning will report to training camp next month as the No. 1 goalkeeper, but that he will be judged by his production thereafter.
Schmid said he retains faith in reserve keepers Bryan Meredith and Josh Ford, who will return for their second professional seasons. But he added that the club could also bring in another veteran reserve.
Schmid also didn’t rule out the possibility of another high-profile international signing before the start of camp.
In another personnel move Wednesday, the Montreal Impact announced the signing of former Sounders’ prospect Miguel Montano.
The Colombian forward had signed with Seattle as an 18-year-old in 2010. However, he saw limited playing time and was loaned to Montreal in August. No compensation was involved in making the move permanent.
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org twitter/donruiztnt blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer