Not sure they’ve ever been called the Big Four. Not sure performances this preseason deserve such a moniker, but I talked to Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid this afternoon about the lack of goals from the foursome of Fredy Montero, Steve Zakuani, Blaise Nkufo and Alvaro Fernandez (pictured in clockwise order from top left) this preseason.
In nine games (and they likely won’t play the 10th) they have combined for zero goals, except for two Montero penalty kicks. While this isn’t back-against-the-wall concern — especially since the season hasn’t started — it’s not exactly reassuring. Here’s the Q&A I had with Schmid on that subject and more.
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(Seattle Times: Everything has kind of come with the qualifier of, “It’s just preseason,” but how concerned are you that you have no goals so far from Montero, Zakuani, Nkufo and Fernandez — except two PKs?)
Schmid: “Yeah, it’s a concern. It’s something they need to look at and something we need to look at as well. They want to get goals, we want them to get goals, so it’s not a situation of people not wanting it to happen. I think we’re around it, we’re close to it, but that front four hasn’t scored yet. They need to get on the scoreboard. If they’re saving them all for the season, I’m OK with that. But it’s a situation of us making sure that put some things away. We just have to continue to work.”
(Seattle Times: How about last night? I think Seattle fans are familiar with the trend of not finishing chances, and then also allowing goals on a limited amount of the opposing team’s chances. How much is that a concern?)
Schmid: “I thought their first goal was a very soft goal. That’s obviously something we don’t want to do and can’t happen. It’s a lot easier to play when you have a lead. Goals change games. The second goal for me was one where some of the guys thought the game was over. I don’t put as much stock into that second goal that they scored. It was a great finish by (Kenny) Cooper; I’m not going to take anything away from that. But it was one where I think we stopped playing. … The referee let it run a little long and they got the goal. The first goal we’re not happy about.”
“The thing is, you can say it’s a repetitive theme, but I think on every team you go through repetitive themes. It’s just sometime that’s there. If you don’t score off free kicks, then they say you never score off free kicks. If you allow goals on free kicks, then you always allow goals on free kicks. If score five goals off free kicks then go three games without scoring off free kick, then it’s, ‘Why didn’t you score on free kicks?’ It’s something that occurs in the sport all the time.”
“I was watching a game this morning, you look at Bayern Munich and a guy like (coach) Louis van Gaal — he was on top of the world last year. And who knows if he’s going to survive the week? Why? Because they got beat 3-1 and looks like they won’t make Champions League. They’re in fourth place and that’s unacceptable. Same thing they created chances and didn’t finish. But to answer your question we have to be better at finishing. We have to not allow soft goals.”
(Seattle Times: Better than the theme of being outplayed consistently…)
Schmid: “It is better than what you’re saying. But sometimes it’s the balancing of playing well and being effective. I think our fans want to see us play well. I don’t think they want to see us just play direct-style or play a style that’s not entertaining. I think they want to see us combine and I think they want to see us go forward as a team. I think they want to see that individual flair. I think that’s something they want to see, but on the same token, we have to combine that effectiveness. No matter how well you play, if you’re behind at the end of the day on the scoreline that’s not going to make them happy either. That’s not going to make us happy. We have to find that balance between knocking the ball around and being effective. I thought last night, my assessment as I said to team was, I thought for that field, it’s a small field, and normally we play more direct when we play there in the Open Cup, and we actually moved the ball around fairly well on the small field. I was very pleased with that, but now it’s, ‘OK we did all that ball movement, now are we playing at the right moments to penetrate and get forward?’ I thought we were little lax on that. I thought we should’ve found those opportunities sometimes a little bit sooner. That’s the effectiveness part. We got to maintain, continue to build on what we’re doing, play good soccer, knock it around and be effective.”