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Kasey Keller: Getting shelled in Spain
May 31st, 2001 12AM

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Kasey Keller is preparing to leave Rayo Vallecano, where he has played for the past two seasons. Keller's contract expires in June and he is considering inquiries from clubs in Spain, France, England and Germany as he also ponders the U.S. qualifiers against Jamaica (June 16), Trinidad & Tobago (June 20) and Mexico (July 1). INTERVIEW BY RIDGE MAHONEY SOCCER AMERICA: This has been a rough season for you and Rayo. The club is fighting relegation and you've given up 48 goals in 22 games. KASEY KELLER: I don't think you mind having particularly [tough] games, but when it gets to be far, far too much ... You'd like to have the odd game where you don't have a lot to do, but I haven't had that, so that makes it a bit frustrating. I've been getting pummeled. The team's in a tremendous free-fall. We've gone from being in the quarterfinals of the UEFA Cup and fighting for a European spot to now fighting against relegation. SA: How does the style of play compare to what you faced in England with Millwall and Leicester? KK: It's been a different experience seeing different strikers and a different style of play. It's still a very attacking-minded league and you're always going to be busy. If you're playing Italy you're looking at a defensive style of playing. The second half against Real Madrid [a 1-0 loss May 20] I saved 10 one-on-ones, so you can take that for what it is. The next game, if you're playing Barcelona and things don't go the same say, you end up losing 5-1 -- like we did -- because they had seven one-on-ones and they score four of them. You can get away with it one game, but you can't keep doing it over and over again because the quality of the opposition won't let you. It was a little bit different against Mallorca [a 4-0 loss May 27]. It was two-against-one and so the guy would come against me and he would pass it to his friend and he would tap it in the open goal. DESPERATE FOR GOOD RESULT SA: Any explanation for the team's collapse? KK: I don't know. We've had some injuries and suspensions and just a loss of form. Once things get habitual it's very hard to break. When you get used to winning, you seem to win. You get used to losing you seem to lose. We need to find the answers and very quickly. You have three teams with 36 points and three teams with 40 with two games to play. We play one of the teams with 36 points in our next game. The key is not to lose that game. If we win we're safe, if we draw we're probably safe depending on how the other two games do. We need to find one good result. ├ŽAM I THE No. 1? SA: And you'll miss the final league game June 17 to train with the U.S. for its qualifiers against Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago. Has Coach Bruce Arena told you if you'll be starting for the U.S.? KK: I just see what happens. If someone says I'm playing in one game I play in that and see what happens in the next. If your question is how do you deal with it -- you just do. We have such an interesting dynamic when it comes to games. I've always been in a situation where I've been playing week-in and week-out and the U.S. had games at times when I wasn't available to come in. That gives somebody else an opportunity to play. You wonder what more you can do. Am I the No. 1, am I not the No. 1, am I going to be the No. 1? Right now, I'm just doing what FIFA says and doing what Bruce says and doing what my club says according to FIFA. If I'm there, I'm there and if I'm playing, I'm playing. If I'm not playing I don't know what I'm going to do. SA: Was it because of the scheduling -- Vallecano usually plays its games on Sunday -- that you weren't called in for the Mexico game in February? KK: I was available for the same time constraints I was for the Costa Rica game. The question was Brad [Friedel] had a game on a Friday night, which gave him two extra days. Bruce thought that was more important. I could have played on the weekend, leave on Monday and play on the Wednesday, which is what I did against Costa Rica and everything worked out fine. SA: You sound a bit frustrated ... KK: At times, yes, I'm very frustrated. But that's part of professional sports. I'm frustrated I have to save 12 or 15 shots against Real Madrid or go into a game against Mallorca, a very important game, and lose four-nil when it could have been 10 in the first half. I don't know what else can be done. I just look at the next game and hopefully have a good game and feel confident that you're going to play in the next. But I've done that before and that hasn't happened. So I don't know. I just wait and see. You take it and deal with it the best you can. When you're away from the game you enjoy your life because it's a good life because you enjoy your family and you enjoy where you're living and everything else. THE BEAUTY OF MADRID SA: Will you miss living in Madrid if you have move somewhere else? KK: I'll miss it a lot. It's a beautiful city, we really like the school my kids are in, and it'll be frustrating to move just when I'm starting to feel comfortable speaking Spanish. That's another aspect of playing here that I've had to work on a lot and that's my communication. I have to talk to my defenders and teammates in a language that's not my native language. It would be great to stay in Spain so I don't have to learn German or French or Turkish. I'd love to stay in Spain, but if it means moving some place else, I move someplace else. It's just a case of seeing what's the best option. If I go back to England, I go back to England, or it could be France or Germany. Who knows? SA: How has your game changed since you went from English soccer to the Spanish League? KK: A shot is pretty similar no matter where you're at. Moving here has been a little bit easier. There's not quite the demand they put on their goalkeepers like in England. In England they expect their goalkeepers to do pretty much everything and here it's a little bit different. My strength has always been shot-stopping. My handling is pretty clean. I don't give up many rebounds. I don't drop many crosses. When they do come I win the ball. If I don't feel confident about coming out I'm confident I can save it on the line or let my defense take care of it. When I do come out if I have to take somebody with me, I do. You're going to make mistakes and you're going to give up soft goals -- it's impossible not to. The less you give up the more confidence your defense gains in you. At Leicester we played deep with three giant center-backs in front of me. [Coach] Martin O'Neill didn't want me to play high off my line. That wasn't my job. My job was to clean things up behind the three big guys. As any goalkeeper gets a little bit older he reads the game a little bit better. I felt really good in the last two years in Spain at how I've read the game. I've had to communicate with people in a different language on the field and that's improved a little bit in my communicating skills because I've really, really had to work at it. As you age you should read the game better. You've seen it more and more. I've played 400 professional games now and there is a difference in what you see than when you've played 40. If you haven't, there's something very, very wrong. Maybe you get yourself out of some situations by being in the right place. That's what the game was for me against Costa Rica. It wasn't necessarily having to make a big save. Maybe five years ago I would have had to make a big save because I would have been a little bit out of position. I was able to take care of most things comfortably before they became dangerous. SA: How did you get your concussion? KK: Which one? SA: The most recent one, in early April, against Real Valladolid. KK: [Harold] Lozano, a big Colombian, took me out and kind of took me into the post. He hit me and I hit the post. He went out of the game. I played about 14 more minutes without really remembering anything. I saw one of my teammates on the field and I don't remember him coming onto the field. I decided I'd better come out. I've had a few throughout my career. Hadn't had any lately. TRYING TO PROVE SOMETHING? SA: What do you feel is your future with the national team? KK: You take each game at a time and go from there. If you don't come in you're basically retiring from the national team. At this stage, I'm not ready to retire from the national team. What my decision will be in two months, two years, two days, who knows? What factors will come into play at that time? I don't know why I would have to [prove anything] but you're trying to prove something every time you step on the field. If I have a big dip in form or have a couple of bad games in a row I'll be the first one to hold my hand up and if I get replaced, I get replaced. But I don't think that's happened. I don't know what else can be done. I just look at the next game and hopefully have a good game and feel confident that you're going to play in the next. But I've done that before and that hasn't happened. So I don't know. I just wait and see.


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