The Sounders responded to their biggest off-season vacancy by signing Austrian goalkeeper Michael Gspurning Wednesday.
Gspurning (pronounced guh-SHPURN-ing), 30, has been capped three times by Austria and played the past four seasons for Skoda Xanthi of Greece’s top flight. He will be added to the roster pending receipt of his international clearance.
After Kasey Keller, the club’s most popular and honored player, followed through on his planned retirement when the Sounders season ended last month, club officials wanted to move quickly to fill the void.
“First off, you don’t replace Kasey Keller — what you’re looking for is a new goalkeeper,” said FC head coach Sigi Schmid in a club press release. “We like Michael’s background and pedigree. We like his size (6-foot-5, 205 pounds). He’s got good feet so we can play through him and he’s very good on crosses, takes good angles and has good hands.”
Gspurning made 96 career appearances in the top leagues in Austria and Greece and was a two-time All-Star in Greece’s Super League.
“There are many reasons I want to come to Seattle,” Gspurning said in the release. “It is a very good team that plays in many competitions and Seattle has the best fans in Major League Soccer. When I think about the task in the next year, I feel very confident to come over and have the opportunity to be the new number one, and have success with the Sounders.
“I like to keep goal in difficult situations and make saves. With my height, I am good at crosses and a solid goalkeeper. I like to push the team in a positive way. I want to help the Sounders and all of my teammates to play better. I can’t wait to come over to Seattle.”
Gspurning played his first several seasons in Austria, beginning in the youth system and then DSV Leoben before joining ASKO Pasching of the Austrian Bundesliga in 2004. He was named the best goalkeeper in Austria’s First Division (second-highest league) in 2003-04 and had several call-ins to the Austria U-21 National Team.
Gspurning joined Skoda Xanthi in 2007 and became the first-choice keeper, playing 89 matches in four seasons, including a career-high 29 in 2009-10. He posted 16 shutouts in 26 matches in 2008-09 and currently holds the record in Greece’s Super League for the longest road shutout streak at eight games. He was twice honored as the top foreign goalkeeper, playing in both All-Star games.
At Skoda Xanthi, Gspurning earned his first call-in to the Austria National Team. He made his international debut against Turkey in a 2008 friendly and started two World Cup qualifiers the following year, a 2-1 win over Romania and a 1-0 loss to eventual group-winners Serbia.
In earlier personnel news, backup keeper Terry Boss announced his retirement, as did defender Taylor Graham. James Riley was taken by Montreal in the expansion draft, then traded to Chivas USA, and Tyson Wahl was acquired by the Montreal Impact.
SOUNDERS MLS SEASON BEGINS MARCH 10 — The opponent, game time and TV schedule have yet to be determined, but the Sounders announced their fourth MLS season will begin on the home pitch at CenturyLink Field March 10. It’s the earliest opener yet, and the first on a weekend.
Three days prior, they begin competitive play against Mexico’s Santos Laguna in the home leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals. The away leg will be played in Torreon, Mexico March 14.
TRYOUTS; ALLIANCE MEETING — The Sounders will hold open tryouts Jan. 21-22 at the team’s training fields at the Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day.
Open to males 18 and older, players will be assessed by members of the Sounders FC technical and coaching staffs. Registration cost is $125. Space is limited and will be filled on a first-come, first-serve basis. To register, visit www.SoundersFC.com/opentryouts.
Sounders FC hosts its third annual college combine in Las Vegas Dec. 16-18 in preparation for January’s SuperDraft Jan. 12 in Kansas City.
The Sounders annual Alliance meeting will be 7 p.m. Tuesday at WaMu Theater at the exhibition center adjacent to CenturyLink. The club and the Alliance Council approved a constitution and charter in November and invite all season-ticket holders and Alliance members to submit a vote to approve. Documents and voting information are available at www.SoundersFC.com/Alliance.
To purchase 2012 season tickets, including new seating in the Hawk’s Nest, contact the Sounders FC Ticket Office at 877-MLS-GOAL (877-657-4625) or www.SoundersFC.com.