Sports

Excited about visit from FC Barcelona? Not Keller

No offense to what might be the world’s greatest soccer club, but Seattle Sounders FC goalkeeper Kasey Keller views FC Barcelona’s visit to Qwest Field on Wednesday as an intrusion on the increasingly serious business of MLS play.

“I’d like to say it’s going to be a nice game Wednesday against Barcelona, but for me that game is a pain in the (butt),” said Keller, a native of Lacey. “It’s all right. We’ll go do a professional job, have a good game against Barcelona and be ready to play the next weekend.”

The veteran goalkeeper was speaking from the locker area of Buck Shaw Stadium in the wake of the Sounders’ 4-0 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday. It marked the worst loss for the expansion Sounders, who are now closer to falling out of playoff position than they are to the top of the table.

That makes this a less celebratory time for the Sounders than the days leading up to their previous international friendly against Chelsea. Seattle went into that match with a three-game winning streak and a six-game non-losing streak.

In the two league games since, the Sounders haven’t scored a goal while going 0-1-1. So, Keller believes his team had better devote full concentration to its return to regular-season play Saturday at Salt Lake.

“I could care less about Wednesday, to be honest,” Keller said. “Yeah, it’s a great occasion for the fans, and for the guys. For me, personally, I would much rather have a good hard week of training and get ready for the league game. For the fans, for the ownership group, for some of the guys, it’s a fantastic experience and atmosphere. I think we just have to go into that game like it’s a hard training session. Hopefully, we don’t get any injuries and we come out of it ready for next weekend.”

Barcelona’s visit seems to have excited American soccer fans even more than Chelsea’s. There were almost 2,000 unsold seats for the Blues’ 2-0 win over the Sounders, but the last of the Barcelona tickets disappeared last week.

A crowd of 93,137 jammed the Rose Bowl on Saturday to watch the first game of FCB’s United States tour, a 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy. It was the largest crowd ever for a game involving an MLS team and the largest U.S. crowd since the 1994 World Cup. The three-game visit will conclude against Mexico’s CD Guadalajara in San Francisco on Saturday.

The excitement is being generated for a Spanish club that was founded in 1899 and has never been relegated from La Liga. It has won 19 La Liga titles – second only to Real Madrid – as well as a record 25 Spanish Cups.

Last season, Barcelona became the first Spanish club to win the treble of La Liga, Copa del Rey and EUFA Champions league.

This U.S. tour is part of Barca’s training for the new season, and manager Pep Guardiola was asked Monday what his team can do for an encore.

“I don’t know,” Guardiola said. “We’re going to try day by day, game by game. Try to not forget last season, but remember the reason why (we accomplished what we did).”

Added time

Coach Sigi Schmid said Costa Rican defender Leonardo Gonzalez will make his Sounders debut Wednesday. Schmid said he doesn’t yet know if midfielder Freddie Ljungberg will play one week after being hospitalized because of migraines. … Qwest Field gates will open two hours before the 7:30 p.m. kickoff Wednesday, and Sounders officials are advising fans to arrive early. … Tacoma glass artist Dale Chihuly on Monday unveiled a commemorative work celebrating Barcelona’s visit. The piece, which features the Barcelona crest, will be auctioned online at www.MLSnet.com through Aug. 31. Proceeds will be split between UNICEF and the FC Barcelona Foundation.

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com

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