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Lacey's Kasey Keller Gets Hall Call

Legendary keeper and Washington Youth Soccer alum to enter US Youth Soccer Hall of Fame; Seattle coach up for National Boys Recreation Coach of the Year

In its nearly four decades of existence, Washington Youth Soccer has produced thousands of outstanding players, many of whom have gone on to succeed at the college and professional levels.

Later this month, US Youth Soccer will honor perhaps the state's greatest player — while simultaneously recognizing a Washington coach who currently works daily to make sure that said player won't be the last to earn such high recognition.

The player, of course, is Kasey Keller. A Washington Youth Soccer, University of Portland, U.S. Soccer, English Premier League and — most recently — Seattle Sounders FC legend, Keller will join a distinguished group of Washington Youth Soccer alumni in the US Youth Soccer Hall of Fame this month.

Perhaps America's greatest keeper, Keller first laced up his cleats as an Under-7 player for the Woodlawn Cemetery Diggers Booters Soccer Club, a member of Washington Youth Soccer. He starred for several clubs throughout his youth career and rose through the ranks of Washington Youth Soccer's Olympic Development program, earning selection to Region IV ODP squads and, ultimately, the U.S. Youth National Team.

After a stellar career at the University of Portland, Keller launched one of the most impressive careers of any American soccer player, breaking down barriers for U.S. players in the German Bundesliga, English Premier League and La Liga, while simultaneously earning 102 caps with the U.S. Men's National Team — tops among goalkeepers all-time. The Lacey native appeared in four World Cups for the United States — tied with Claudio Reyna for the most by any U.S. player — and was named the U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year a record three times.

Keller's career came full-circle in 2009 when he became the first player to sign a contract with the brand-new Seattle Sounders FC, returning home to lead the Rave Green into Major League Soccer. Behind his captaincy, the Sounders achieved success and popularity at levels unprecedented for an expansion team in almost any sport, winning three-straight U.S. Open Cups, reaching the playoffs each year, and shattering MLS attendance records.

More than 64,000 fans packed CenturyLink Field in October to honor Keller at his final regular-season game — a fitting tribute from the state's soccer fans for the finest player Washington Youth Soccer has ever produced.

Of course, coaches across the state are working to ensure that Keller won't be the last Washington Youth Soccer player to one day enter the US Youth Soccer Hall of Fame.

One such coach is West Seattle Soccer Club's Jean Robinson, who will join Keller at this month's US Youth Soccer Awards Gala as a nominee for US Youth Soccer National Boys Recreation Coach of the Year.

As coach of the Boys Under-19 West Seattle Sambas, Robinson manages a diverse roster, nearly half of which is made up of players from Somalia and Ethiopia who would not otherwise have the chance to play organized youth soccer in the U.S. In addition to coaching these players and setting a first-class example for them, Robinson has funded much of their participation — cleats, balls, etc. — from her own pocket, as their own families are unable to meet the financial demands.

That commitment alone would be enough to merit her honors as Boys Recreation Coach of the Year in both Washington and Region IV — but Robinson excelled on the field as well, turning her diverse team into a cohesive unit that went 12-0 in District play.

"Their technical ability and athleticism (or the lack thereof) was as different as their skin color, religious upbringing, culture, financial means and life experiences. Yet Coach Robinson was able to craft a team experience that fully engaged and fostered the development of each player," says William Fry, WSSC President. "Every participant felt valued. Every player improved their skills and contributed to the team's success on the field. Along the way, our great game and a very special coach helped the players learn invaluable life lessons about the worth of each person and the power of uniting behind common goals and interests.

"I personally interact with hundreds of coaches each year, and I cannot think of a more deserving candidate for Coach of the Year recognition than Jean Robinson."

Washington Youth Soccer extends a heartfelt congratulations to both Kasey Keller and Jean Robinson on their US Youth Soccer recognition. To learn more, and to view the results of the National Coach of the Year announcement on Friday, Feb. 17, visit usyouthsoccer.org!

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