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January 24, 2011 at 11:38 PM

Preseason nuggets from Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid

schmid chivas.jpgPhoto credit: Mark Harrison, The Seattle Times

I was able to catch up with Sigi Schmid before training camp opens Tuesday, most of which resulted in this story. There was a bunch of other good leftover stuff I wanted to pass along here.

* * *

How long does it take for that familiarity and trust to grow with a new group? Did we see glimpses of it at the end of last season?

Schmid: “I think you saw glimpses of it last year, but it grows. I always view it as really the amount of work that’s put in during the offseason. When guys are really buying in, when they’re really committed, then they’re very conscientious in their offseason and come in prepared to play. He was our MVP last year and he’s a great player, but look at Alonso’s preparation this offseason — vastly different than his preparation last offseason. Look at Montero’s preparation, different than last offseason. Zach Scott and some of those guys are always very constant in what they do, but I think everybody’s offseason preparations were more intense, more focused and that’s where you really see the buy-in and belief and trust in each other, that ‘OK, this is going to make us better.’ ”

It looks like you have a solid core coming back, most Sounders FC fans might agree on a projected starting lineup. Is that a good thing, to have almost a first unit?

Schmid: “That’s nice, but what’s far more important is to avoid injuries. When you look at Salt Lake, they really got through the last couple years pretty much with major sections of their team injury-free. When you think of Salt Lake you don’t think of anything different than Borchers and Olave in the back with Wingert and Russell. You always remember Beckerman in midfield, even though he missed a stretch there. You look at L.A., stayed pretty free of injuries. Look at Colorado, they stayed free of injuries. More important than anything is not only having that nucleus of players but also staying free of injuries. What that allows is: A) the guys that are playing well for you, they continue to play well, B) for competition in case they’re not playing well. Over time people show they belong or don’t belong. When you have a lot of injuries your hands are tied a little bit. It’s like, ‘I got to play this guy. He might not be training well, he might be out of form, but I still got to play him.’ Sometimes the guy is playing well, but because there’s no pressure behind him, he might slack off a little. It changes their game. I think we have a good nucleus and I think we have good depth as well.”

Do good years in regards to injuries tend to follow bad years? In your experience does it usually even out?

Schmid: “It evens out. I don’t know if it evens out the next year. My first year in Columbus I had more ACL injuries in one year than I had in 20 years of coaching college soccer. I was like, ‘Am I doing something different? What’s going on?’ Then the last year, when we won the championship, we we went pretty injury-free the whole year. To me if a guy misses a week here and he’s back in, it’s not an injury, so we didn’t really have any injuries. It wasn’t one year after, but over time (it evens out). It’s like when you lose games through a bad break, a bad decision or hard luck. Eventually that evens out over time. In time, if you stay in the game long enough, that all evens out.”

What do you think of what the team did in the offseason? Are there some thing to look forward to in 2011?

Schmid: “Obviously we wanted to get a little deeper in the middle of midfield. I think we did that. We wanted to make sure we added some options wide. I think we’ve done that as well. We’re really pleased with Fucito’s development. We’ve got him training right now with the rookies and for sure he’s the guy scoring goals everyday. You can see he’s a cut above in that group. I think we made a good decision holding onto him and I think he’s going to do well. All those things together, plus the returning guys. Getting Kennedy and Evans back is like adding new players almost. I think we’ve addressed all the needs we needed to get more depth.”

How have guys come through in regards to their various injury situations?

Schmid: “Fucito’s out there. Evans has done everything in the offseason, progressed really well, has had no setbacks. Obviously we want to be smart with him in preseason and also smart with Kennedy, where you don’t push them like you would in a normal preseason. Maybe if we train twice a day, the one time they’ll be out with us and the other time we’ll give them alternative training. Jaqua had a little more done to his hip than was originally anticipated. Had a little microfracture in there as well. His is going to lurk into the beginning of the season, but no way is he going to miss the time he missed last year. He should be able to start training hopefully soon. He’s starting to run. Noonan is another one we have to see how he comes along. Boss had work done but he’s out training, we expect him to be pretty close to full training next week. Parke went out to play today, so we think we should be full in when we start as well.”

Some readers have been curious as to why you have so many guys around in preseason. What’s the approach to that?

Schmid: “We decided to do it a little different this year, where we brought in the rookies and the young players earlier so we could sort of give them a unique look for a week. That really weeds themselves out. Chris and Kurt have done a great job in terms of identifying players. I think we had quite a few talented players at our combine, and some of those players weren’t necessarily college players. They weren’t draftable players, so we wanted to make sure we gave those guys a look as well. It’s really a ‘we don’t want to leave any stone unturned’ kind of thing. By having them all in we can see them compete against each other and it gives them a chance to compete against our guys. By the time we have them compete against our guys, our numbers will probably be closer to 32-33.”

And the return of the reserve league surely has something to do with it also?

Schmid: “Yeah, because numbers are going to go up because of that. The roster will be around 28-30, where last year it was 24. You want to give guys viable opportunities in that also.”

Did you have a reaction to the news there will be 10 playoff teams this season?

Schmid: “I don’t think anybody knows what the final structure of that is going to be, but I think the goal is to give a little more credence to finishing first in your division. With those amount of teams, somebody has to get a bye. I imagine it’d be the first place teams, a little benefit there. Then it’s a matter of once you decide that’s the way you’re going to go, how does the rest of it work so you have a viable structure? Maybe the top three get a bye and the bottom two play, to give a greater reward for finishing the regular season in a higher position, and also make it a little more difficult for teams that finish at the bottom and barely get into the playoffs to climb to the top.”

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