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January 27, 2011 at 2:48 PM

Sounders FC quote sheet: Sigi Schmid and Leone Cruz

SIGI SCHMID, head coach

(On fitness level of players…) “What we were most happy with was the overall level from the team. As I told the team at the end, last year I think we had 24 guys go through the fitness test, nine were below the minimum mark that we sort of set. This year we had I think 31 guys go through the fitness, five of them were below the minimum mark and of those five three were rookies. We are really pleased with the overall level of fitness and guys made some good jumps and pleased that our overall base level of fitness is higher than it was last year.”

(On the offseason…) “It’s like what we talked about the first day of practice. You get a better vibe and you can measure a team by how much commitment and how much work they put in in the offseason. So you see how much work the guys have put in in the offseason. They show out here in the testing phase. You see a different camaraderie, a different spirit. You saw them get together at the end of practice. That wasn’t something that came from us. That was something that came from them. I think there is a different level of commitment which is something that we talked about but it doesn’t matter what you talk about. It’s what they internalize and what they do and you see them start to put those things into action.”

(On newcomers and rookies who did not train with Seattle during offseason…) “Obviously we are worried less about those guys. There are a lot of guys that I think did well and made marked improvement. To be very honest with you we didn’t expect O’Brian White to do as well in the fitness test as he did. To be very candid I don’t know if he is that fit, but it showed a tremendous mentality. The other day I was talking to somebody and he was saying, ‘Well, it’s hard to predict who is going to make it when you draft guys.’ And I said, ‘You know, talent is never the reason they don’t make it. It all deals with heart and mentality and can they think the game.’ Talent is not the main predictor at the next level. He showed me a lot of heart, a lot of mentality and I was really happy with that.”

(How was fitness measured back in your day) “In the old days when I played they used to do this thing called the Cooper test. In fact as a young coach that’s what I used to do. I think Chris Henderson is our record holder at UCLA in my years. You’re supposed to run two miles in 12 minutes, but we had good teams at UCLA and their pride was that everybody made it under 12 minutes. I know a lot of other colleges would do it and half the team would come in under. A guy like Henderson would run it in 10:20 and then pace the second group as the rabbit for a couple laps. We did that and we did this 30-yard sprint test and so forth. I wasn’t a big long-distance guy. The 30-yard sprint test I liked. You can make me run that all day. I don’t want to run the two miles too often.”

(On Taylor Graham…) “From the trainers, it’s still day-to-day. He ran a little bit today so they want to see how he comes from that running. The goal is that he is able to be in full team training on Monday.”

(What’s the body part?) “It’s a calf strain.”

LEONE CRUZ, rookie defender

(I’ve seen your name at least three different ways, can you help me out here?) “My full name is Juan Leone Cruz. I’ve grown up going by Leone. And in soccer, just because it’s short, Leo. It’s the easiest.”

(Quite an evolution!) “Yeah, seriously. It’s like 10 different names.”

(Some Sounders fans have already taken to you on Twitter. When did you start that and how has that gone?) “That started over a year ago. I maybe had like four followers for the entire year. Then I got drafted and the fans from the Sounders just started saying, ‘Hey, welcome to Seattle.’ That was very nice. It was awesome.”

(How many followers do you have now?) “Maybe 250? 260?”

Ed note: He’s actually up to 273 as of 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

(Were you asking for biking tips from the fans? Is that stuff you enjoy off the field?) “I came from the outdoors. I’m from Austin, Texas, and there’s a lot of water in that area — there’s lakes, there’s rivers, canoeing, kayaking, tubing. Biking, there are hills. Fortunately Seattle is somewhat similar and I figured what better way to see it than being out on a bike or a canoe or something.”

(Have you had any ‘Welcome to MLS’ moments? What have you had to adjust to most in these first couple weeks?) “Definitely the team, the organization. I came from a small private school, then you come to the best organization in the MLS and you have some pretty big shoes to fill, you know? I got a comforting welcome, not only from the organization and the administration, but from the fans. The kindness of the people from Seattle has been really nice.”

(I’ve seen you most as a center back, but you’re able to play right back too, right? Is center back your most natural position?) “I’ve always grown up playing center back. My favorite player was a center back. As I got older I wanted to test myself and try different challenges — right back being one of them. I really enjoyed that. You get up and down, and you can attack a little bit. It’s always fun to attack and score goals, or to help create goals. I think that was one of the good things about trying it out at right back. I feel comfortable at both positions.”


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