The Sounders returned to practice Monday after having flown back from Los Angeles on Sunday. As is typical the first day back after a game, the starters got a light day of regeneration training to speed up recovery. The reserves, on the other hand, had a solid day of work. Here are some notes from afterward:
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— Coach Sigi Schmid referred to this week as “Opportunity Week.” So what does that mean? “If you’re not starting on the field on Wednesday, you know you’re going to be starting on the field on Friday in the reserve game,” he said, referring to the depth players, not the starters, who might get both games off. “Everybody is going to get an opportunity to show for themselves and show that, ‘Hey, coach. You’ve been looking past me. You need to look at me because I’m a guy who can play.’ It’s a great chance for our guys and they’d be making a big mistake if they looked past it.”
— Assistant coach Brian Schmetzer expanded on that: “There are guys on the bottom of the roster that haven’t got extended minutes and we need to make sure that they understand that part of the strength of the Sounders, ever since way back when, is it’s a team. In 2009, when we on the championship in D.C., there were a lot of guys that played a lot of minutes prior to that game in D.C. — that was the culmination of a lot of guys’ (work). … There were a lot of guys who didn’t get a lot of accolades and there were a lot of Seattle Sounders that made that final game possible. These guys, this new crop of guys, have to believe that.”
— It sounds like Seattle’s lineup Wednesday will be a mixture of starters and other regulars. Schmid picked Alex Caskey as an example of someone who might start. There aren’t many options in the back, so the defense might go unchanged from Saturday against Chivas USA.
— There might be more to gain Wednesday than just a win, according to Schmid. Might it spark a return to form? “The Open Cup has been good for us in the past,” he said. “Sometimes it’s helped us get into a rhythm of play and get some good results. Right now, we could use a good result.”
— Veteran defender Zach Scott was asked if it’s hard to look ahead and see a potential Open Cup trip to Portland next week. “Yeah, it is,” he said. “Obviously getting any chance to play a big rival like Portland is something that’s always in the back of your mind. You look forward to those dates. I was just looking at the calendar today for our next league game against Portland coming up in June here. So getting to play them in the Open Cup is big, but we’re not stupid enough to think we can overlook Atlanta. I’ve been in that position a lot of times with the lower-division Sounders, where an MLS team has come in cocky, overconfident and we put them in their place. I’ll be sure the guys know we need to stay focused on this game.”
— Schmid was asked the same thing: “There’s only a meeting with Portland if we take care of Atlanta, so we have to look towards Atlanta and we have to be prepared for that game. Anything can happen. You see results in the past of teams getting upset in the Open Cup and that’s something that we don’t want to see happen. We have to take care of Wednesday night and then we’ll take care of the next.”
— Sounds like defender Leo Gonzalez won’t be able to go Wednesday to the quad injury. He was a neutral in training Monday — one step below full participation — and Schmid said he could be back for a potential fourth-round Open Cup game next week.
— Even while this two-week break from MLS play isn’t really a break with games Wednesday, Friday and another potentially next week, Schmid said there will still be time to get some rest before a June 16 return to league action. It’s been a busy few months since the start of the year, even including a more intense preseason, Schmid said, and the players could use a physical and mental break.
— Jeff Parke, for one, has played every minute in April and May. He said he’s holding up well and wants to play as much as possible. “It’s a lot of games, but when things start rolling, you start getting in a groove,” said Parke. “It’s nothing that’s overbearing or too much. I know my body better than anybody, so I’d let them know if I was starting to break down.”
— A few Sounders, Schmetzer and Scott in particular, were asked about the 2007 USL final against Atlanta and a pair of local products on the Silverbacks’ roster — Raphael Cox and Ciaran O’Brien. “I’m sure they’ll be motivated,” Schmetzer said. “They’ll want to come home and do well.”