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Updated Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 09:28 PM

Sounders FC feels confident with goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann in reserve

By Joshua Mayers
Seattle Times staff reporter

TUKWILA — There was a tinge of disappointment to Marcus Hahnemann's offseason. But how could that be? The veteran goalkeeper was just months removed from fulfilling a longtime dream by returning to his hometown team, Sounders FC, after more than a decade of playing in England.

Moreover, the Seattle native was back from essentially being forced into retirement, in part by a confounding MLS allocation process that made it nearly impossible for the 40-year-old to join the league.

The Hahnemann family hosted its biggest Christmas in 16 years, a luxury afforded by living close to home and not abroad.

Amid so much joy, why any bad feelings?

"We thought we could've pushed forward and made it to the final — at least," Hahnemann said of Sounders FC coming one game short of the 2012 MLS Cup.

Even though Hahnemann hadn't played for the Sounders since a three-year stint from 1994 to 1996, back when he was just starting his pro career, the emotions prove he's been a Sounder for life.

"Seattle's been my team forever," he said. "This is home."

And home is where another storied American goalkeeping career will come to an end, much like it did for the beloved Kasey Keller 14 months ago. But while Hahnemann said he has thought about if this will be his final season, it won't come to define the year.

"I enjoy coming out here," he said, still sweating from work on the practice field. "Would I rather be skiing with the kids? Probably. Every day being a ski bum? Yeah, that'd be nice. But if you enjoy something, why would you stop? Most likely this will probably be my last year. It's going to be a long, hard season, but if I'm feeling good, why wouldn't I want to play?"

A stable backup

The Sounders' worst winless streak in four years coincided last season almost directly with a long-term injury to their starting goalkeeper.

Michael Gspurning was out 13 midseason games with a hip strain, and the team went a franchise-worst nine games without a victory. To blame all of that on Seattle's backups — who are no longer with the team — would be unfair, but it was a factor.

And if that happens again this season?

"If Michael goes down, for sure (we're comfortable with) Marcus," goalkeeper coach Tom Dutra said. "For me, we have the best goalkeeping tandem in the league right now. Who's better? Really, who's better?"

Hahnemann played only once last year after signing in September — a CONCACAF Champions League group-stage game in October after the team had already clinched advancement to the quarterfinals. The victory was nice, but so was the reassurance in Seattle's goalkeeping depth.

"For us to have him is great security," said coach Sigi Schmid.

Dutra noted Seattle is going into the season with a "clear" depth chart — 1, Gspurning. 2, Hahnemann. 3, Josh Ford — but that doesn't put an end to competition for playing time.

"We're all fighting for positions," Hahnemann said. "We're all pushing each other."

'There's a good spirit with him'

There simply is no missing Hahnemann.

Maybe it's his stature (6 feet 3, 220 pounds), or his shaved head, or his gregarious personality often accompanied by a wide smile.

That outgoing nature is what most coaches and teammates mention first about Hahnemann, and it prevents tension forming within the position group.

"It's fun, first of all," Gspurning said of the relationship. "It's fun because he brings a lot of experience, too. It's always great to talk to him about soccer. ... He's a great guy. He's funny. He brings a good atmosphere to the team. There's a good spirit with him."

The affable spirit is contagious, but it's not just about laughs with Hahnemann.

Veteran defender Zach Scott said Hahnemann's leadership skills are similar to those of Keller, who captained the Sounders from 2009 to his retirement after the 2011 season.

"You didn't ask (Keller) to take a leadership role," Scott said. "It was just something assumed and something he was comfortable with, and that's exactly how Marcus is."

Added assistant coach Brian Schmetzer: "Marcus has some experience that a lot of us, myself included, never had from playing in the top league in the world. He has lots of stories, lots of advice for the young guys. He's great in the clubhouse — the first guy to come and say, 'Let's go get lunch' — and has a lot of intangibles."

Fitting for a guy who has been a Sounder at heart for almost 20 years.

Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or jmayers@seattletimes.com


ELLEN M. BANNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Veteran goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann is a Seattle-area product who wants to end his career on a positive note with the Sounders.




ELLEN M. BANNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES
The leadership of Marcus Hahnemann is just as valuable as his physical talents.




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