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February 1, 2012 at 9:52 PM

Sigi Schmid talks Arizona training, new guys, Le Toux, goal-line technology and more

schmid mug.jpgSounders FC coach Sigi Schmid held a teleconference with Seattle-area reporters Wednesday afternoon. He addressed a variety of topics, including green cards and international roster spots, which was covered in a previous post.

Here are some highlights from the rest of the conference call:

* * *

(How is the team looking as you get into the third week of camp?) “I’m pleased with where we’re at right now. From a fitness standpoint, I think we’re making good progress. In the days here I think some guys have really been engaged in training and have worked very hard in training, so that’s been good. We’ve been trying at times to really make sure that we keep the guys we think are in consideration for that starting group against Santos playing together a little bit more than we would do normally this early in preseason, just so that they get their rhythm of play down a little quicker. Overall, I’m happy with where we’re at now.”

(Could you give us an early impression of the new guys who joined you in Arizona?) “It’s a little bit hard to because they got in last night, so with them today in the morning session we had them participate in the warm-up and the passing drills that we do and a little bit of possession, but then we pulled them out. Obviously Johansson is an experienced player. He was solid in everything he did. The young Hondurans that came in did well. Also, Wes Feighner is a draft choice that we’ve had in, so he’s had two or three days to show, as well. We really haven’t seen enough of the three. We’ll be able to tell a lot more, say, come Friday.”

(How do you get Johansson on the same page as his fellow defenders as soon as possible?) “Obviously it’s going to be playing time together, so it’s playing those guys together as a unit in training — (like) when we’re doing small-sided exercises. Parke plays a little more right of center, so maybe at times pairing him and Johansson even when we’re playing 5-on-5 games so they get used to each other. That’s one way. As this week goes on, we’ll start playing 11-a-sides, so it’s important for us to get that part down as well. Obviously he’s a player who’s new to our team, so he still needs to prove himself. But his pedigree speaks for (itself), and it’s not going to come as a surprise to our group if we stick him into the first-team defense early on. It’s just a matter of them getting time together in training.”

(Looking at the Le Toux situation in Philadelphia, do you feel everyone is comfortable with one another and committed to the Sounders?) “As far as we know. I can’t speak for other clubs. Obviously they make decisions that they think are the appropriate decisions for their team. Without knowing all the dynamics, you can’t really respond to that. So why a player like Mondragon (left) for whatever personal reasons or why they traded a Le Toux — that’s really something only Philly can answer. For our group, we’ve communicated with our players and they know where they stand in our eyes, and where we feel our commitment is to them and their commitment is to us, and what our expectations are. We try to be very clear with that with our players and I think we have a good group. We have a group that likes each other, that works hard for each other and a group that likes playing for the Seattle Sounders.”

(How does it change your training playing against international competition in the first game instead of domestic?) “Like I’ve said, we’re going to play the group we’re picking the starting lineup from in that first game, which obviously is going to be more of the experienced, returning players and some of the key signings we’ve made. We’re going to have that group maybe play together a little bit more early on, which we’re doing right now. We’re really going to identify games and our preparation games as we go into it, beginning on Monday with Vancouver, so that they get quality minutes together, push them a little bit quicker to get towards 90 minutes than we would normally do in preseason. Sometimes in the past, the first 90-minute game for some guys is the first game of the regular season. We don’t want that to be the situation, because we know Santos is going to be seven or eight games into their league schedule by the time they play us.”

(With that said, are the younger players going to have to show something earlier than usual?) “They’ve got to step up and play, and adjust maybe quicker than is sometimes the case. But with our team, it’s also a situation that we have a solid retuning nucleus that’s very competitive. If maybe guys who are returning felt maybe a little bit secure, they realize they’re in a battle right now, they’re in competition, as well. It’s a number of factors that really go into it, but certainly impressing early on, bringing quality of play quickly, learning quickly, stepping up quickly and adjusting to the speed of play and all that, the quicker you do that the more it helps you — and this season probably more so than any because it is a shorter period of time.”

(It seems like some forwards might be available leaguewide. Are you looking to add some or are you comfortable with the group?) “We’re comfortable with the group that we have. Again we’re never a club that’s going to not listen to offers or opportunities that are out there. We’re also in a situation where we’ve worked hard to keep this group together, because we think there’s ability and there’s talent here, and as a result of that, the salary cap and financial issues dictate a little bit what we can or can’t do. But certainly with Edson Buddle coming back to the league, it raises questions: ‘What is the Galaxy going to do with a Chad Barrett? Is he going to play a lot? What’s going to go on?’ Vancouver now has a boat-full of forwards, so what are they going to do with all their guys? … So some of those guys might become available, but sometimes it’s not as simple as adding because of the cap, sometimes you’ve got to subtract in order to add, and you have to weigh which is better and which is going to make the team better.”

(Did the moves in L.A., Portland and Vancouver make the West tougher?) “I think the West has always been tougher, and I think the West certainly got tougher. I think the teams in the West and especially the teams in the Northwest, they’re going to be aggressive and they want to be successful. They’ve got good, solid fan bases that want to see their team be successful. Vancouver is working hard to enhance their team and improve their team, and Portland obviously is doing the same. So from that standpoint I think you see what they’re doing and the pieces that they’re adding. (The Timbers) subtracted a Cooper and added a Boyd — theoretically in Portland that makes them better. But also some of the East Coast teams: I think Chicago’s improved themselves, New England is still looking at people and bringing people in, Kansas City has added some people — so there’s a lot of teams that continue to do that. But I think in particular the Northwest is very competitive with each other and they’ve got good fan bases, and those teams are being aggressive as far as how they approach their new signings.”

(Did the Le Toux move surprise you or was he being shopped around the league, perhaps even to the Sounders?) “If he was shopped around, he wasn’t offered to us. It was a little bit of a surprise. But then again, you never know what a club’s thinking. They’ve got their plan and they’re trying to follow their plan. But he wasn’t somebody that Philly called us about.”

(Have you noticed an extra spring in the step of Jeff Parke after being with the national team?) “I think any time a player goes to the national-team level, their confidence level grows and their expectations of their own play rise a little bit. I think that’s a good thing, because when you expect more of yourself, you’re generally going to play better and you’re going to be a little bit sharper. So for him, you can definitely notice that his confidence is there and that he feels good about the opportunity that he got. Obviously he’s hoping to get more of those opportunities, but I think because of him being called in, I think it makes him a better player for us and makes us a stronger team.”

(Can you give an update on trying to schedule friendlies against Mexican teams before your CCL quarterfinal?) “Yeah, we definitely want to do that. I think we’re close on some things. I don’t think all the i’s have been dotted and the t’s have been crossed, so that’s why as a club I don’t think anything has been announced yet, officially. But we definitely want to play some Mexican teams in advance of playing against Santos and that’s something that we’re working hard to make sure comes about.”

(Have you ever seen refereeing as bad in MLS as you saw in Arsenal-Bolton today?) “I haven’t watched it. I’d have to talk to Ezra because he doesn’t miss any Arsenal games. He left lunch early so he could actually watch. I’m here on the phone with you and have another meeting, so I don’t get to watch that. Maybe I can catch the second half. I’m sure Wenger will have something to say about it.”

(What do you think about implementing goal-line technology into MLS?) “Any time you can improve the game, I think that’s a plus. If goal-line technology helps us determine whether the ball’s been over the line or not over the line, I think that’s a plus. I know I’m an old school sort of guy usually on a lot of things, but I think the game moves forward and there are certain situations that really impact the game — whether it’s penalty-kick calls, whether it’s red cards, whether it’s, ‘Is the ball over the line or not?’ — that if we can do something to make sure that those calls are done correctly, whether that’s reviewing video instantaneously or as quickly as possible after those occurrences, or goal-line technology, I think all that makes the game better.”

(Did you catch Brad Evans’ Q&A with Michael Gspurning on Twitter?) “Unfortunately I did catch some of it. (laughs) Brad has a very unique sense of humor. I think we’re finding out that Michael has a unique sense of humor, as well. I guess that’s why I’m on Twitter, so I can catch some of that stuff so it doesn’t hit me by surprise in leaps and bounds. The spirit in our team is good and I know we have our usual ritual here at lunch and dinner where we make the new players introduce themselves and tell a joke, or tell a little bit about themselves, or stories, or Brian Schmetzer does word-association games with them. We usually have a good laugh, but I think that’s all part of setting the team chemistry. It’s great that Michael and Brad are getting to know each other. If there hair styles start looking alike we’ll be a little more concerned.”

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