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March 28, 2014 at 2:18 PM

A quick chat with Kasey Keller, who is going to Brazil for ESPN’s World Cup coverage

I caught up with Sounders FC broadcaster Kasey Keller during practice Friday. The former U.S. goalkeeper will be going to Brazil in a couple months as part of ESPN’s coverage of the World Cup, so I talked to him about the gig, the U.S. team, Julian Green and more:

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(What can you say about what you’ll be doing in Brazil?) “It’s going to be cool. It’s something I signed to do a long time ago. My schedule looks like I’ll be doing eight games in the first round kind of as a co-commentator, and then I’ll be doing a bunch of studio work, as well, so it’s going to be a very busy World Cup for me. I’ll be down there more or less from the beginning of June until the tournament is over. That combination of games and studio work is going to make my first round extremely hectic. I’m not sure what the schedule will look like for me in the second round, but it’s going to be interesting in my first foray in a World Cup not as a player.”

(What have you made of your progression and career track as a broadcaster?) “It’s been a fun transition. I can’t complain about that, with the combination of the day-to-day with the Sounders to ESPNFC and the weekly show, obviously the national team stuff with ESPN, big MLS games, the All-Star Game and (MLS Cup) final, and now going into the World Cup. The Euros two years ago really kind of cemented my commitment to the World Cup, and that was a lot of fun. Then you combine that with other options. I was doing the game next week for ESPN and then (USMNT coach Jurgen) Klinsmann called and asked if I could do the goalkeeping. Fortunately or unfortunately, you hate to turn anybody away. And then I’m going to go down and do some work with the U-23 program for the next Olympic cycle in April, as well. Staying in national team coaching but then also the broadcasting side, I can’t complain. It’s been a phenomenal transition.”

(Had you thought about how coaching commitments might conflict with covering the World Cup?) “No, I was already committed with ESPN. Do I agree my time with Klinsmann and Martin (Vasquez) and Andy Hertzog? Yeah, of course. But they understood I was already committed on the broadcast side. Also, Chris Woods will be able to do that. The whole idea was there were some games that he wasn’t going to be able to come in for and they would need some cover. I’m just happy that Klinsmann keeps me involved and is happy with the work I’ve done for them.”

(How do you strike the balance of being an analyst for ESPN and working for the national team at the same time?) “I think what you do is you understand what is said behind closed doors, and you respect that. Klinsmann knows and trusts that if he says something to me that I’m able to separate from the journalist and broadcast side. If there is something that’s I’m unsure of, I can always call him and ask him. I will always respect the individual first, regardless of what I do on the broadcast side. I’m not going to jeopardize any kind of friendship or trust just because I can leak something before anybody else does. That’s not who I am and that’s not really my job. I leave that to you guys. I still think I can do my job well without having to worry about that kind of stuff.”

(What is your approach when you’re calling a game? What are you looking for?) “The best part about being an analyst is so much of what I do is about what’s being done in front of me. Brian O’Connell told me this very early, and he always puts two words on my monitor, and I still live by this, it says ‘How?’ and ‘Why?’ Those are the two words. That’s my job: explain how something happened and why something happened. I have our guys trained a little bit to have the replay go farther back so I can explain exactly how and why. Everybody can see that the cross came in, but you want to see how it got there. Was there a defender who stepped to the wrong spot? Was there an excellent pass? That’s how I kind of explain how and why. When I’m stuck with a producer that has no control of the replay, I can only explain what they give me. And that sometimes gets a little bit frustrating.”

(With so many games to cover in the first round, how much are you bogged down by research?) “There’s a guy by the name of Paul Carr at ESPN who I rely on heavily. Paul Carr is the man. I’m giving him all the credit.”

(When you’re looking at this USMNT, what would you say is the main thing you’re looking at come this World Cup?) “One of the big points is the vastly inexperience back-line that we have. Sometimes you’ll have a guy that’s played in a few World Cups and then somebody else steps in, but this is going to be a case where almost across the entire back line, nobody has played in that kind of position. We’re not a super-deep country, so you always need some guys to step up and overachieve in a World Cup, you need a little bit of luck, you need your stars to perform along with having other guys step up, so those are always the questions. You have to look for Clint, Landon, Michael Bradley to really lead the team. You have Jozy Altidore who isn’t playing particularly well in Sunderland to have a great tournament. If Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez are your center backs, they’re going to have to be really good. Whoever gets that right back spot, you’re playing against Cristiano Ronaldo, you’re playing against Marco Reus, so you need guys to really perform.”

(What are your thoughts on Julian Green?) “That’s my big thing for this next game. Where is he going to play and who is he going to play for? I was very critical of Diego Costa when he made his debut for Spain. You’re coming in at the 11th hour. You’re going to take somebody’s spot away who got the team into the World Cup. You need to be great. You can’t just be good; you need to be great at that point. I’m looking for Julian Green to really show me something. If he doesn’t really show me something, then the expectation for me would be do you take him or do you not take him? Do you then just say, ‘You’re 18 years old and maybe this isn’t the right time. I don’t want to shake up the whole team chemistry by throwing you into this situation.’ I think if he comes in and lights the world on fire, everyone is going to go, ‘Holy (crap). Fair enough.'”

| More in Stop and chats, World Cup


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