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January 30, 2013 at 12:01 PM

Babayele Sodade explains decision to decline Canadian national team call-up

sodade mug 2012 sounders.jpgTwo Sounders featured in Tuesday night’s friendly between the U.S. and Canada: Eddie Johnson and Brad Evans.

There could have been a third.

About a week after Christmas, Babayele Sodade got a call-up from the Canadian national team for a training camp leading into the U.S. friendly. The reward could have been his first cap with the senior national team.

But even while Sodade has fully recovered from an ACL tear — an injury suffered with the Canadian U-23 team during an Olympic qualifying tournament last March — he hasn’t played a game in almost a year.

So as honored as he was, Sodade declined the call-up.

“I didn’t want to go into Canadian camp not sharp, soccer-wise, because I haven’t played since March 24,” he explained Tuesday. “That’s a very long time. If I went into camp, my first impression to the coaches that are watching for the next Canadian team wouldn’t have been as great as if I came here, got better soccer-wise and impressed next time.”

Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid consulted with Sodade about the issue but said, at the end of the day, it was the player’s decision.

“I think it was the right decision because I don’t think he was ready,” Schmid said. “He hasn’t played a game in over a year. To go try out for your national team when you haven’t played a game in a year is tough thing, especially when you’re trying to make an impression. So for him, I think it was the right decision. If you’re a guy who’s already got 30 caps and have already proved yourself to the coach, then maybe you can come in and you can participate — the coach understands where you’re at. But for him, he’s a young guy, he’s trying to make his way. I think being here, going through the preseason with us, and not having that pressure of trying to impress a coach and trying to make the national team was the right decision.”

So was Canada slighted by the snub or did they understand Sodade’s situation?

“They understood,” Sodade said.

“They said, ‘Yeah, we understand where you position is,’ and when I got here, when I landed in Seattle, the Canadian manager called me and said, ‘Listen, we think it’ll be better for you to stay and get better over there. We talked to the Seattle organization and we’ve talked. It’s up to you if you want to come, but we understand.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I think I’m just going to hang tight and get my form.'”

With Fredy Montero gone and Johnson with the national team, Sodade has gotten a lot of time up front. He started with the “first team” in the first 11v11 scrimmage last week, scored a goal and drew praise from Schmid afterward.

Perhaps the start of a big 2013 for club and country.

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