RENTON, Wash. — After a brief resurgence that included four starts toward the end of the 2013 season, Marcus Hahnemann had the same question on his mind as most fans. The veteran Seattle Sounders goalkeeper took his dog for a run through Coal Creek Park in Bellevue to gauge his status, mentally and physically.
The path took him up and down “tons of hills — a couple of nasty ones,” Hahnemann said after training on Monday. That three-mile run answered the question: the 41-year-old would return for the 2014 season.
“I don’t run fast, mind you, but I ran most of it,” he said. “If I can do that at the end of the season, I’ve got to be able to play another year.”
Hahnemann received the quick resolution to his dilemma that he desired, which would allow him to stay in a professional player’s frame of mind. He tweeted on Nov. 14, just seven days after Seattle lost to the Portland Timbers in the playoffs, “Yes I will be back next season!”
Nearly two months later, the Sounders officially announced that he would return. Although they did not disclose the length of Hahnemann’s new contract, he had no qualms in expressing his opinion on Monday.
“This will probably be my last year, but it’s still the same thing. The main decision factor is always: Are you having fun, and is your body holding up?” he said. “[Last year] still left me a taste of, I wanted more. I thought I was still physically able to go another year.”
Hahnemann’s veteran leadership and experience could be vital to the retooled Sounders roster that crashed out of the playoffs in 2013 despite major acquisitions in forwards Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins. After the franchise declined Michael Gspurning’s option and picked up former Toronto FC man Stefan Frei, Hahnemann has a chance for the starting spot.
He took over the No. 1 jersey at least materially from Gspurning, leaving Frei with Hahnemann’s old 24, which the Swiss national also wore in Toronto. It feels appropriate that Hahnemann would wear No. 1, given his history with the Sounders.
He signed with Seattle in 1994, after finishing his senior year at Division II Seattle Pacific. He was the American Professional Soccer League’s best goalkeeper as a rookie, posting a 0.57 goals-against average in 14 games. He also manned the nets for Seattle’s 1995 and 1996 A-League title-winning seasons.
Hahnemann went on to play for Fulham, Reading, Wolverhampton Wanderers, and Everton in the English Premier League and made the United States’ 2006 and 2010 World Cup squads before returning to the Sounders in 2012.
Despite his experience and seeming lack of points left to prove, Hahnemann does not expect a picnic in what should be his final season.
“I plan on playing. That’s my goal, is to go in and play, but that’s my plan,” he said. “If you ask my mom, she’ll tell you I should be starting. My wife, probably the same thing. But they don’t pick the team, I don’t pick the team — Sigi picks the team. So the only thing I can do is work my ass off for the next 39 sessions [before the season starts] and put myself in a situation like I think I did last year for the preseason, where I was playing really well. … I think now, if I can do that again this year, what I did last year, I’m playing.”
Hahnemann began preseason with a nagging hamstring injury, the result of an unfortunate slip on the ice while walking to his car. He said goalkeeper coach Tom Dutra has been careful not to bring him along too quickly, keeping him out of the end of training sessions and the second session of two-a-days when necessary.
“I’m a little bit behind and a little bit frustrated with that, but I’m 42 almost,” he said. “My hamstring feels 42. I act like I’m 16, so we’re OK.”
Hahnemann affords himself the occasional swear word or cliché in his interviews. After nearly two decades as a professional, he has dropped any pretension a younger player might have. He leaned casually against a table on the sideline of the Seattle Seahawks’ indoor training field at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center, giving the impression of a casual-yet-assured old-timer on his own clock.
“Last year, I definitely had some fun. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed training, enjoyed everything,” Hahnemann said. “If you don’t enjoy the work, the day-to-day stuff, preparing for games, then it becomes a job, which is not what this is supposed to be.”