The Sounders held their first local practice in over a week Monday at Starfire (the starters from the New England game had a light, regeneration session and workout inside). Here are some of the main notes from the day:
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— Goalkeeper Andrew Weber was scheduled for an MRI after practice for an adductor strain suffered in the first half Saturday. “It’s a strain,” said coach Sigi Schmid. “Sometimes they take a few days; sometimes they take a couple of weeks. It all depends.” Weber was walking around in sneakers during practice. Is Josh Ford ready to travel to Utah if needed? I’ll ask tomorrow.
— Michael Gspurning did some goalkeeper drills, which was the most activity he’s done in a while. The Sounders starter has missed 10 games now with the hip injury. “We’re trying to make sure that there’s not a setback in the recovery from the injury,” said Schmid. “Today he worked with (goalkeeper coach Tommy Dutra) and Tommy was very pleased with the work that he did. So we’ll see. He’ll work again tomorrow, probably take Wednesday off, come back and work Thursday-Friday, and then we’ll see. Probably by the end of this week we’ll have a much better feel overall for it and we hope that he can return as soon as possible.”
— I asked Schmid for a grade of the first half of the season and he said probably a C-minus or B-plus. More on that in our print story for Tuesday’s paper.
— I also asked about where this team could use help with the transfer window open. “We’re always looking at players,” Schmid said. “We’re always discussing different possibilities. Obviously you’re looking at production — who’s producing, who’s not producing. So certain things, the way we’ve constructed this team and the way we’ve built this team, we haven’t gotten the production in the certain areas of the field that we had expected going into it. Maybe it shifts your thinking, but it’s tough to change how your team is structured in the middle of the season; you can add some things here and there. I don’t know if it’s a 1-for-1 (transaction) or it’s adding somebody and you change a little bit how you play. Those are the things we’re kicking around right now.”
— I took the previous quote to mean that addressing the midfield is a priority, where it’s clear the production hasn’t been there. Midfielders have combined for two goals this season (one from the run of play) after scoring 33 last season. The team has gone public with its interest German midfielder Christian Tiffert, who’s currently under contract with FC Kaiserslautern and visited Seattle recently.
— I didn’t see any non-roster players involved in the training session.
— An encouraging sight was rookie forward Babayele Sodade running laps around the field, which was the first time I’ve seen that since he suffered the torn ACL.
— There was no timeline or update from Schmid on playing time for Steve Zakuani. Don’t expect the Sounders to play up a grand entrance. One of the team’s main points during Zakuani’s recovery has to play down deadlines and target dates.
— For the first time in a long time, the Sounders might have all seven of their top defenders healthy, though Schmid implied Zach Scott could use a little rest. Jeff Parke appears to be over the dizziness issue from a week ago and got through all of Monday’s session.
— Before practice, Schmid had a long chat with Alvaro Fernandez off to the side. It isn’t uncommon at all for the coach to talk to players, and things returned to normal afterward. Some have asked what the conversation was about, but I didn’t ask. If I asked every time Schmid talked to a player on the side, not much else would get done I fear. Unless there’s a huge demand for an inquiry…
— Schmid hasn’t been exactly pleased with officiating recently. He was confused as to how Mauro Rosales committed a team-high five fouls in New England (“When you look at it that way, you sort of sit there and go, ‘Whoa, wait a second. What’s going on?'”) and how Osvaldo Alonso sometimes gets a yellow card on his first foul.
— He continued regarding the team being out of control: “Now there’s the thing out there where people think, ‘Oh, these guys are tough guys.’ All I know is the San Jose-L.A. game got a little excited at the end, too, and I don’t think we were involved in that game, were we? But San Jose was.”
— And on referee Edvin Jurisevic, who had a potential game-changing phantom call on Fernandez at the end of Saturday’s tie? “I still don’t know what he called on Flaco at the end of the game,” Schmid said. “We won’t even talk about the offsides goal. But I have no idea what that call was. The (assistant referee) is right there. The AR is the same guy who missed the offsides and the AR is the same guy who sat there and said to me that Flaco pushed somebody. He didn’t know who, but he pushed somebody. I’m watching the replay like five times and I’m trying to see where he pushed anybody. Obviously if that free kick goes for us, the game ends there. But that free kick doesn’t go for us and they go down the field and they score and that’s how (the refs) can influence games, unfortunately. Over the season you hope it balances out. Right now, it hasn’t balanced out yet, so that’s why it’s frustrating.”
— Did Schmid think Flaco’s history for embellishment might have played into the call? “I don’t know,” he said. “You’d have to ask the referees.”
— Fredy Montero will face some high expectations in his return from suspension Wednesday. The Sounders were very pleased with the Eddie Johnson–Mauro Rosales pairing up front against the Revolution, particularly the work rate. “He’s got to bring energy with him onto the field,” Schmid said of Montero. “We know he brings skill and technique and all those things, but he has to bring some energy back onto the field, as well. One of the things we were pleased with the last two games is our defensive work up front.”
— You might remember Sounders FC’s winless streak started with a home loss to Real Salt Lake, Wednesday’s opponent. Schmid was asked if that result had any kind of effect that might have spurred a slump. “It was a hard loss, because in that particular game I thought we were the better team,” the coach said. “I just watched the game again yesterday on the flight back from New England. I watched our last game against Salt Lake, and you’re looking at that game and you’re sitting there saying, ‘How did we lose this one?’ because we were playing well. I think that hurt a little bit. I think if we could’ve pulled this one out against New England, you know you can talk maybe about the turning the corner. Right now, we’re still standing at the corner. We’ve gotten to the corner, we’ve peeked around the other side and know what it looks like, and now we’ve got to see what we can do from there. But certainly we’ve gone to Salt Lake before and we’ve been successful. They’ve lost three in a row, so they’re a team that’s going to be hungry, but we’ve got to get out there and we’ve got to get something.”
— Did he have any thoughts on RSL’s struggles? “I’m worrying about my own team,” he said, “I can’t worry about them. I’ve got enough to do.”