You readers are awesome. Some of your takes cracked me up (Naddy and Stevezungulfanclub) and some were just really positive and others informative. The email inbox was flooded with comments (I’d say we hit a new record) and I’m thankful. We’re all in this together and you’ve all been a big help and good support system.
Sometime between now and the start of camp next Wednesday, Seattle will announce what I imagine to be its last assistant coach hire. All signs point to that being Ezra Hendrickson.
We could also get news and/or confirmation on the signing of international players. There’s a few names being talked about out there.
Jeff Parke is still unsigned. And to those asking about the schedule: It comes out either at the end of this month or early in Feb. Believe me I can’t wait for it either.
And here’s more from first-round pick Steve Zakuani yesterday:
(On why Seattle was his first choice) “I just remember when Toronto came in the league and there was such a buzz and excitement around them. I remember they had great fans behind them. I think it’ll be the same for Seattle. I think already 20,000 season tickets [have been] sold. That’s already proof that there’s a buzz in that city…[I will] be part of something brand new: a new team, new franchise. Everything’s going to be brand new and I’m going to be a part of that. That was really why I wanted to go there, and I’ve heard it’s a great city. Plus the coach-everywhere he’s gone, he’s been successful. There’s going to be a chance for me to be a part of that over there.”
(On whether he knows anything about Sounders FC’s roster and where he’ll fit into it) “I just know that they’ve got some good players. I looked over the roster obviously. The main name I saw was Freddie Ljungberg, who played at Arsenal. I grew up watching him play and I’m excited about him. I don’t know yet [how I’ll fit in]; I’m just going to go over there and play. I’m confident in my abilities and what I can do. Obviously Coach has seen some stuff in me that he likes, and he’s got ideas and we’ll see how it works out.”
(On whether he’s seen Coach Schmid in action before) “Yeah, I have. I watched Columbus games. They played an incredible brand of soccer, you know? That’s the kind of soccer I can play: offensive-minded, but still strong defensively, a nice free-flowing passing game. I’ve even watched when he coached the U-20s a few years back and I know he teaches a nice brand of soccer. That’s why I mainly was excited to come and play with him. Then my name was called and I got to meet him backstage. It was really just incredible.”
On why he was able to be so successful with Akron this year) “It was just the way our team played suited my game. Our coach in college really promoted a nice offensive-minded kind of soccer, and that fit me because I’m a creative player. I like to go on guys and that kind of thing, and it helped me a lot. I just think I was able to try my role within the team and contribute. Everywhere I go, that’s what I try and do. Hopefully I can do the same at the next level.”
(On whether he considered going to play in Europe) “Yeah, I did. Up until December I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. It wasn’t until the very last week in December that I knew I was going to Major League Soccer. I mean, I had options in Europe, I looked over those, but the MLS contract I had with the money put aside was the biggest turning point for me. It just kept me over here. Also, I think the league is growing. Its reputation worldwide is getting bigger and bigger with players like David Beckham, Blanco and Ljungberg. I want to be a part of that too, and just be part of the growth of the league.”
(On who he might represent internationally if the opportunity presents itself) “Obviously I can play for the Congo or England. I was born in the Congo, that’s really where I’m from. Even though London’s my hometown, I’m really an African. I think I’d be more proud to represent my birth country.”
(On playing for Arsenal’s youth team) “That’s where I learned to play the game of soccer. Anybody who’s seen Arsenal play knows that the way they play soccer is the most attractive style in the world. I grew up under that tutelage for five years. I got to travel around the world with them to some major tournaments, play against some of the best players in England, week in and week out, and some of the best players around Europe. That’s really where I got my soccer education. It was just a great time, a great experience.”
(On playing on an artificial surface at the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field) “It’ll be no problem. That’s what I trained on every day at college. We trained every day on artificial grass. It feels almost as good as natural grass, if not better, because the ball is always true, there’s no lumps in the ground. The ball is going to do what you want it to do. It’s fast. It won’t be an issue.”
(On whether he has any nicknames) “They call me Steve-o. No one really calls me Steve.”
(On whether it’s better to come to a new team than to go to a team where he would be ‘the new guy) “I think it will be better for me because it’s going to be a new experience for everybody. We’re all going to be in it from day one. It’s going to be a great adventure, and I think that’s one of the reasons that made Seattle such an attractive place to go, because it’s going to be an exciting time. It’s a new franchise. Everything’s brand new. We’re all going to come in from day one and have to learn to play with each other, which will be difficult, but should make for a great time.”