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Sounders FC

Daily coverage of Seattle Sounders FC, MLS and world soccer.

February 9, 2011 at 2:29 PM

Full transcript of Schmid’s teleconference on Wednesday

Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid had a lengthy teleconference with Seattle area reporters this afternoon. Here are the 2,500-some words from that chat, where Schmid addresses roster cuts, injury updates, rookie standouts, Erik Friberg, Year 3 success, Roger Levesque and more…

* * *

(On making roster cuts) “I told myself early on in my coaching career, I think my second year of coaching I said, ‘If cutting players ever gets easy, I’m going to quit.’ Because I think one of the things I enjoy in coaching is the attachment that you have to players and the ability to interface and interact with guys who are trying to grow, trying to mature, trying to develop. That’s never an easy thing for me because in almost every player I see something, and at the end of the day you have to say no to some guys, but there’s still something there that you see. I promised myself that would never be easy.”

(On Duncan Oughton, former Crew player who retired and joined Columbus’ front office) “Duncan was tremendous. I wish at the time he came out of college at Cal-State Fullerton, I wish we could have gotten him at the L.A. Galaxy. He ended going to Columbus and had a very productive five years. He had an injury that was basically the same knee that (Ole Gunnar) Solskjaer had with Man. United, and I think him and Solskjaer are the only two that have ever really come back and played even somewhat significant minutes. He was such an emotional leader even when he was injured. I used to take him along to preseason even though I knew he couldn’t train, just because he was so important for the team off the field and all the things that he did. He brought guys together and all that and just his personality was first rate. For him to continue to play on the way his knee was, I think 99-percent of the people would have said, ‘That’s it. I’m hanging ’em up.’ But that’s not Duncan. He’s going to fight until the very last moment. I’m glad he ended up with a job in the front office and I’m happy for him, but I know he’d still rather be on the field.”

(Are you concerned at all with the injury situation?) “No, not at all. We actually think we’re very good with injuries. Talking to Vancouver, talking to Salt Lake, they’ve got a lot more guys out than we have. We’ve tried to be cautious with some people, so in the case of Evans, in the case of Leo Gonzalez yesterday, it was more they could’ve played if we really needed them to play, but we felt a day of rest for them would go well so they can play full-out the next game. What we’re trying to do is not push guys into a situation where it becomes a very serious injury. In Michael Seamon’s situation, his is something that we’re not quite sure what it is and it’s not so much a soccer injury. As I said we don’t know what it is so we wanted to send him back to Seattle at this stage just to have him checked out there by the doctors, so they can determine exactly what he has. Nkufo had a calf injury, that’s the only real injury that we’ve had so far.”

(On second-year players) “They’ve shown improvement but they’re all still in a battle. Those guys are battling with the rookies and there’s a two-tier salary structure down there too, so they’re battling for ‘Are they going to get into those bottom four? Are they going to get into the apprentice salaries? Where are they going to get into?’ So there’s definitely a big battle going on there. Certainly the guys who have been here for a year, or in some cases two like Fucito, there are certain things that you see in their game that they understand and learn. What you’re looking for now in the rookies is how quickly do they adapt to the speed of play, and you try to compare them to what these guys were a year ago and see if someone has potential to develop faster or greater. It’s almost like who can absorb information the quickest and put it to use.”

(Comparing SSFC’s in Year 3 to previous teams) “I think we’re still younger than those other two teams. The core down the middle, the nucleus of the team is a little bit younger in terms of years in the league and even chronological age. So when you’re looking at the Crew, even though Marshall was a reasonably young player, he was already in his fourth year in the league, or fifth year in the league maybe. Eddie Gaven was young, but he was already in his sixth year in the league. Those guys were young players on the team, but they were veterans to the league already. In L.A. it was sort of the same thing. At that time we had the Ezra Hendrickson’s who had been in the league for a while, Mauricio Cienfuegos, Cobi Jones, there were a lot of guys who had been in the league for a while. So our age in terms of experience within the league is not as great as those two teams and our nucleus down the middle is younger than those two teams at the same stage.”

(Does that change your third year expectations?) “Yeah, it makes it a little bit harder and certainly it maybe tempers it a little bit. But I still have a lot of confidence in this group. I have a lot of confidence in their abilities to know grow as a group and come together for that final push, which is what you need to get yourselves into an MLS Cup and so forth. That’s something we’re working on everyday and demanding of people everyday. But it is because of the lesser experience in the league it does make it a little tougher for sure.”

(On newcomers making an impression) “What happens with the rookies sometimes is on a given day somebody stands out and on another given day somebody else stands out. But I would say people at this stage the guy that has been pretty much the most consistent is probably Carrasco. He’s had ups and downs, like they all have, but he’s been more level in terms of his ups and downs. Both of the goalkeepers, Ford and Meredith, have been fairly consistent as well. Those have probably been the three guys who have stood out for the most consistency at this stage.”

(Is time together more valuable to the new guys or same for everyone?) “It’s valuable to the whole team. It’s valuable to the new guys because it immerses them into the team and the culture. It’s valuable to the returning guys because you get to know the new guys. One of the things you’re looking to is who fits in, etcetera, etcetera. Sometimes you even look around the evening as to who is hanging out with each other, who is playing cards, who is doing this or is a guy sitting by himself every night in a corner just chatting to whomever on the computer and not interfacing with the guys. All those things are things you sort of look for. All of a sudden if you’re a bubble player and you’re also not really within the group, then maybe the other bubble player gets the nod over you because he’s better for the group as a whole. So when you get to selecting those fringe spots that sometimes make the determination for you. Being at a place like this so see some of that stuff that you wouldn’t see if you’re trying to go through preseason in Seattle and everyone is going home each night.”

(On Erik Friberg) “He’s doing well. Obviously fitness-wise he’s still along because he had a long offseason. Their season is comparable to ours and their weather is maybe a little more extreme than ours in Sweden so maybe he didn’t have the availability to get going early. Nor was he sure of what to expect. But he’s definitely done well. I’m very happy with his play. His fitness is coming along. Off the field the team already has three nicknames for him, so he seems to be fitting in fairly well off the field.”

(What are the nicknames?) “I can’t reveal those (laughs). You gotta get that out of somebody else.”

(What does he do well?) “He’s a simple but effective player. There’s not a lot of complications to his game, which is good because we have guys who do take a little more time on the ball, like Zakuani and Montero. So he fits in well because he’s simple but also technically good. He keeps the ball moving. He’s got good vision to find that forward pass, just like the ball he slipped in to O’Brian White. His energy level is good on the field. His timing of getting forward, getting into the box late, supporting the play is also very good. I think playing without Evans the other day, when he came in he was able to fill that role and it was much more comparable. If it’s Evans and Alonso out there or if it’s Friberg and Alonso, from a playing-style standpoint there’s not much difference. At some point as we go forward we’ll look at him wide as well to say what he brings to the team in that position. He’s definitely done well enough that he’s knocking on the door and he’s made it a competitive situation, which is great.”

(On Friberg and Evans on the field together, in a 4-3-3 maybe?) “I could see having them on the field at the same time. I don’t know if a 4-3-3 suits us unless we’re going to make Montero into a winger … or as an underneath striker and then we’re turning Friberg or Evans into a winger. But I don’t think that’s the best position for either three of those guys.”

(On Levesque at right back) “We’ve had obviously Zach Scott play a little bit of right back for us. We pushed Evans back there a couple of times and we wanted to see what other options existed, because Zach’s also played for us at left back and might be comfortable on the left than he is on the right, per se. But we wanted to see what other options where there if something happened to James Riley that we didn’t necessarily fall back into Evans dropping back to right back that quickly. And also Roger’s been a guy that we’ve moved around a bit. With the emergence a little bit of Fucito and with the addition of O’Brian White, with Jaqua hopefully getting healthy enough to play in a month or so, it’s going to be pretty tough sledding and tough competition up front. We wanted to see if he could give us some versatility in being able to play right back and he’s got a great engine. He can get up and down the field. Already in the few games he’s played there he’s made a couple of good runs forward, hit a great cross for the one goal when we played an intersquad game. That was tremendous and he’s a pretty quick learner. He’s a bright kid so he’s learning the nuances of defending reasonably quickly, so for me right now probably it’s been a pretty positive experiment.”

(On getting two-deep at each position) “Obviously with the number of players you want to be two-deep everywhere. You always want to put your best 11 players on the field, but if you can resolve your problems in the short term by making a one-for-one switch, that’s a lot better than having to make three moves to solve a problem. Now if somebody’s out for a longer term than you’re going to say, ‘OK, well let’s maybe slide this guy here and push this guy in here.’ But if you have a guy get injured in a game or have a guy miss a game, and you can just take out that one piece and put in another piece, it makes it a lot easier on the rest of your team.”

(On updates on Hurtado on Jaqua) “Jhon is doing well. Obviously he’s training and has played games for us already. He felt good today after playing yesterday and I think he ended up playing 47 minutes yesterday. We were happy with that. He’s coming along great. Nate we left in Seattle because we figured his ability to return would be enhanced by just having some good 1-on-1 work and all the reports we’ve got are positive. We see Nate being able to train with us or do stuff on the field, at least get through warm-ups, with the team and join us for Florida and progress now in a team setting.”

(How would assess where the league in terms of finding success in three years?) “It’s still a somewhat realistic window. The league has certainly improved and gotten better. I think as much so on the team management side as anywhere else. I think early on in the league sometimes teams struggled a little bit longer because whether it was on the technical director side or the coaching side there just wasn’t enough planning maybe or enough knowledge to move it forward quickly. I think know when you look around the league, most teams are pretty solid at least in one of two of those positions if not both of those positions, and as a result the ability to use your allocation money wisely and figure out to get the team moving forward, I think everybody has somebody in their organization that has figured that out to help the team do that. A three-year ability to come back, especially if you’re out of the playoff hunt, is definitely possible. I still think what we’ve been able to do in Seattle, and hopefully we’ll be able to push our three years and get as far as we can this year — but being able to stay at the top or near the top for those three years right from the get go I think is pretty amazing.”

(On difficulties of schedule not being out yet and playoff format) “We know when our opening game is and that’s the most important thing to know as we are going through preseason here and planning. So that doesn’t affect anything. Our schedule should be out tomorrow I think and near term that doesn’t affect anything as well. Same thing with the playoff format. That doesn’t really affect anything in terms of what we’re doing right now. That becomes more of a factor obviously as we get into the season and we start playing games.”

(When do you anticipate the next roster cuts?) “Probably in between Arizona and Florida there will be the same thing that happened after the first week here, where there willl be some elimination of players. We’ll be scaling down again, but I couldn’t tell you if that’s one or four or five, we’re going to let it be a very natural process of, ‘OK, these are the guys that we think have fallen behind a little bit for one reason or another,’ and just let it go that way. Overall I feel very fortunate to have the difficult decisions that are ahead of us as a coaching staff, because the guys have made it tough for us and have played well for the most part. Good players make you look a good coach. Good coaches don’t turn bad players into good players; good players make a coach look good.”

(So no more cuts in Arizona?) “No, this group that we have right now will go through the end of the week.”

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