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Catching Up With … former world-caliber goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann

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SEATTLE – Chalk it up to a slip of the tongue. Or maybe even to mere instinct.

After playing soccer for the vast majority of his 43 years on planet Earth, Marcus Hahnemann was always somebody’s teammate … part of a collective “we” on squads as close by as Seattle or Kent or Bellevue to as far away as England.

So if “we” finds its way into the conversation when Hahnemann is lending his own perspective on Seattle Sounders broadcasts, cut him a little bit of slack.

Old habits die hard.

“The main criticism I’ve had about reporting is I still say “we” as the Sounders,” said Hahnemann, the now-retired world-class goalkeeper who helped Seattle Pacific win the 1993 NCAA Division II national championship, then started and finished his 21-year professional career in the Emerald City. “Ross Fletcher (the radio play-by-play broadcaster) says, ‘Why do you say ‘we’? Do you mean the broadcast team?'”

Hahemann is laughing a bit as he tells that story on himself. But he and those around him certainly understand why it happens when he’s on the air during the pre-match, halftime, and post-match portions of the broadcast.

“Ross says, ‘You have to say Sounders – you’re not with them anymore,'” Hahnemann said. “I really do enjoy (broadcasting), and you’re still part of the team – or at least you feel like you are. A lot of the guys who are there were there when I was playing.”

That Hahemann is no longer playing – he officially retired last December after the Sounders wrapped up their 2014 Major League Soccer season – means that for the first time in more than two decades, he has a summer to himself. No training camp. No road trips. No set-in-stone schedules.

But no sitting around either – not Hahnemann.

“In the beginning, people ask, ‘How’s retirement?’ and it just kind of feels like the offseason,” Hahnemann said. “But now that I’m six months in, it’s a little bit interesting. I have a lot of hobbies and things that I do outside.

“I could lie and say I don’t miss it at all,” he added. “But when you’re announcing, you go, ‘Man, I want to be down there.”

TAKING FLIGHT WITH THE FALCONS …
During his junior year in high school, Hahnemann and his family moved from Kent, southeast of Seattle, to Bellevue, on the east side of Lake Washington. He finished that year at Kentridge High, then transferred to Newport.

That move ultimately led him to Seattle Pacific.

“Paul Mendes was coaching at Newport, and also was an assistant at SPU,” Hahnemann said. “It was a natural progression to hop in there.”

“Then once (former Falcons head coach) Cliff McCrath came to the house, he was so charismatic. I said, ‘I’ve gotta play for this guy.’ My parents loved him, so it was a pretty easy choice.”

Late in the summer of 1990, Hahnemann settled in with his new team. From the bottom of the list of five goalkeeping candidates, he became one of two who made the team, the other being a junior who had seen limited action the previous season. Then, after posting two shutouts while rotating with the other keeper through the first four games, McCrath named Hahnemann as the starter.

He wound up playing in 18 of 22 games that autumn as the Falcons went all the way to the NCAA Division II final before falling to Southern Connecticut State in a penalty-kick tiebreaker, 1-0.

“Dogged, dedicated without any necessary tension or the usual semblance or expression of someone who is that determined,” McCrath replied when asked about Hahnemann’s standout qualities. “The next year, he improved, and we were in the playoffs each of the four years.  … He was always the joy of the team.”

In a twist that no one could have scripted, Hahnemann, who earned a degree in physical education and a trio of All-American awards, finished his SPU career three years later on the winning end of a 1-0 victory against Southern Connecticut in national championship game. Through his four seasons in maroon, Hahnemann played in 78 of 83 games, totaling 7,451 of the 8,070 minutes of action. Of those 78 games, he kept the opposition off the board in 46 of them.

“You don’t really talk about college too much after playing 13 years in England,” he said. “But college had a huge impact on me, being a three-time All-American, making the Final Four in three of the four years, then winning it as a senior.”

Hahnemann didn’t have to go far to get started on a professional soccer career. Matter of fact, it was just across town as the Sounders, dormant since the North American Soccer League team folded in 1983, were reborn as a franchise in the A-League. That was the only pro league in the United States, as MLS was still two years away.

He played three years here, part of back-to-back title teams in 1995 and 1996. The first of those crowns came in a PK shootout victory against the Atlanta Ruckus at Seattle Memorial Stadium. Hahnemann remembers it well, because among those leading the charge on the field to congratulate him was a former SPU teammate.

“Todd Stauber was the first one out to me after I saved the penalty – he jumped out of the stands,” Hahnemann recalled. “It was just an awesome to see him on the field. That was one of my coolest experiences.”

Certainly, other experiences would follow, because Hahnemann was just getting started. From 2 ½ years with the Colorado Rapids of then-fledgling MLS to 13 years in England to a spot as a reserve on two United States World Cup rosters (2006 and 2010), Hahnemann was living the dream.

“When I was playing at SPU, there wasn’t a pro league around,” he said. “Then it was the A-League. Now, you look at MLS, and you can make a good career.

“For us, we had a crazy dream of going to Europe, which only a few of us were able to do, and stay over there and make a career out of it,” he added. “I was lucky enough to be able to play in England for 13 years.”

After signing with England’s Everton in September of 2011 – but never seeing a minute of action – Hahnemann wasn’t ready to be done, although he knew the end of his career was approaching.  The following September, the Sounders, by now an MLS team, swung a deal to bring him home.

Hahnemann knew his role here was as a backup, and he played 11 matches across all competitions in two-plus years.

Last Dec. 8, he took off the game gloves for good.

“The cool part,” he said on the day of that announcement, “is that I got to start off my career as a Sounder and I got to end it as a Sounder.”

Being retired means even more time for wife Amanda and sons Hunter (age 16) and Austin (15).

It also means riding dirt bikes on Mondays with fellow Northwest goalkeeping icon Kasey Keller, or piloting his own Cessna.

The aviation interest sprouted when Hahnemann was a kid and a family friend was flying through Seattle.
“I said, ‘Hey, can I come?’ and they said, ‘Sure,'” he recalled. “I just loved the idea of doing it. It was one of those things where I said, ‘When I retire, I’m going to go back and get my license.'”  (He did, and now wants to work toward his multi-engine and instrument licenses.)

Fun as all of that is, what Hahnemann enjoys most is coaching. He’s currently working at Northwest Soccer Camp, something he started doing way back during his SPU days.

“I just want to see kids improve. A lot of them don’t get a ton of coaching all the time,” he said. “Sometimes, one little tip helps them tremendously.”

And when he’s not teaching on the field, he can do it on a Sounders broadcast.

“It’s kind of entertaining to go out there and see the guys and talk about the game, and hopefully give some insight into what I see,” Hahnemann said. “You almost look at it as looking to educate people so they can understand the game a little more. Hopefully, if kids are watching the game, I can give them a couple pointers to help them along – which is why I enjoy coaching so much.”

And if the occasional “we” crawls into the conversation, well, cut him a little slack. After so many years of being part of that collective “we” on the soccer field …

… old habits die hard.