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February 1, 2013 at 2:21 PM

Sigi Schmid on DP shopping, news arrivals, national team guys, and other camp matters

schmid mug.jpgHere is the transcript of a conference call with Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid on Friday…

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(How has camp gone so far in Arizona and what can you tell us about trialist Mason Trafford?) “Camp’s going well. We’ve been happy with what we’ve been able to do fitness-wise and the strides that we’re making that way. We eased off a little bit today, had our annual soccer-tennis tournament down here, so that’s always fun and a little bit of an easier day for them. They have the afternoon off. Mason has done well. We’ve been playing him primarily as a center back so far. We’ll look at him a little bit as an outside back, as well, and as a center back, but he’s been here for a few days. We’ve played once where we played 11v11. Tomorrow afternoon we’re going to play 11v11 again, so that will tell us a little bit more, but he’s done well and fit in well.”

(What can you tell us about Cordell Cato’s situation?) “Not quite sure with Cordell. I think he’s probably looking at some options elsewhere, but there are certain things that I’m not quite sure (about). Chris Henderson is probably more up to date on what’s happening there. Cordell and I had a discussion at the end of the season, as we had meetings with all our players, so he knew what his situation was. The opportunity to come back and join us in camp was there. He didn’t really communicate in the period of time he was off and then communicated once we had started camp, saying he would like to come in at that stage. We had already made a couple of decisions, and obviously made the decision to trade for Lamar Neagle, so that impacted our abilities to possibly bring him back in. So right now it’s a situation where we’re not planning to bring him back in, but I don’t know exactly where all the formalities lie at this moment.”

(What are you hoping to learn in the Timbers game Tuesday?) “It’s just a chance to run our guys out there and see where we’re at, see where we’re at fitness-wise a little bit and see where we’re at in terms of our cohesion. We’ve got a lot of guys right now — Steve Zakuani being one of them, Duran coming off a knee injury, Sodade as well coming off a knee injury — who really aren’t used to the grind of double days, because it’s been a long time since they’ve been used to that. We’ve been backing them off a little bit, so the game against Portland gives us an opportunity to see some of those guys — with the exception of Duran — see them play, see where they’re at, because they’re training regimen is a little different than the others. Also, (we can) see where we’re at as a team. Maybe look at a couple options up front and continue to look at some of the trialists that we have in camp and see how they’re doing. There are probably going to be quite a few guys (who will think will probably make our team) that we might not play in the Portland game just to make sure we get a good final look and are able to make our decisions on the other players. The Tucson part of our preseason is really where we’re going to try and get that group that’ll play in the opening part of our season, get that group together, get that understanding down.”

(How does this preseason compare to others at a similar stage?) “They’re all different. They’re all comparable. I know that seems like a strange answer. They’re different because it’s always a slightly different group, different mood, but I’ve been very happy with the mood and the group. The group has worked very hard in training. There’s a good vibe in the camp. There’s good camaraderie in the camp, as well. Fitness-wise, I think we’re equal or ahead of where we were last year at this time. A lot of it is because guys came in fairly good, but also we’ve altered a little bit how we’re training and we’re really working on some guys who we felt had some fitness deficits, make sure that they bring up those deficits without putting the pressure of playing a lot of soccer on them right now. So I think that’s starting to pay dividends for us. Overall, fitness-wise I’m pleased where we’re at and I’m pleased with the mood of camp.”

(Does Ianni’s injury give you a better chance to look at what you have in that position?) “Well, obviously we’re looking right now in that position, as well, and looking at what are the abilities of our young guys. What’s the ability of Zavaleta? We’ve played him primarily as a defender so far, although in the scrimmage tomorrow we’ll probably play him up front for a change of pace, just to take one quick look there. But it gives us an opportunity to look at the young guys. We’ve also brought in some players who are more veteran at the center back position to see if there’s somebody we can add, maybe who’s been around the league or has some experience, that’ll fit into our salary cap and that will work for us. So we’re looking at both options right now.”

(Can you give any updates on Will Bates, Kevin Durr or Adam Johansson joining up with the team?) “Bates is coming in tomorrow. So he went through his clean-up surgery on his knee, which went well and was successful. Our doctor, Dr. Morris, met with his doctor and Will is going to bring information with him that our doctor wants to see. He’s still a ways away from playing, meaning at least two weeks away from really getting on to the field. We understand that, but we’re willing to give him that time, so that’s good. Durr will probably join us in Tucson at some point. And Adam Johansson has been called in by Sweden for their (Feb. 6) game against Argentina, so he’s staying with the Swedish national team through that game. So he’ll be joining us, as well, in Seattle before we go to Tucson.”

(What did you think about Tuesday’s USA-Canada game and when might we see Eddie Johnson and Brad Evans in camp?) “I thought both Eddie and Brad did well. The team had obviously gone through a very strenuous three-week training camp, and you could see it in their legs and their play. They were a little bit heavy-legged. It felt maybe a little bit slow, a little bit off, in terms of their sharpness and quickness. I thought Eddie did a reasonable job up front; his holdup play was good. But he, like others, nobody was really sharp and decisive. I though was Evans was able to show his versatility. Don’t know (when they’ll join us), because I don’t think U.S. Soccer has announced anything on their final decision. The only thing I can tell you is Eddie and Brad are not here right now and we don’t expect them in the next few days.”

(What can you say about your current options at forward having a chance to make the lineup?) “I think we have options from the returning players. Obviously David Estrada and Sammy Ochoa are the ones who were with us last year, probably more prominent. (There are) younger players that we’ve got: Bates, who isn’t quite ready yet. Sodade is coming back from his ACL surgery; he’s making good strides. There are guys we’ve drafted — Jennings Rex and so forth. Travis Bowen, who’s in camp with us, he’s another forward. So we’re looking at different options. … We’re still looking at possible DP options up there, as well, so we haven’t stopped searching for that. We feel in the near term that we have enough quality to get by in that position, but there are certainly a lot of guys who have opportunities to show for yourself and opportunities to earn playing time.”

(Who has looked good from a fitness standpoint, returning or new?) “I think there are guys who’ve come in and have been a lot sharper. I think Mauro Rosales came in sharper than he came in at the beginning of last season, which I think is a good thing for Mauro and a good thing for our team. I think Jhon Kennedy Hurtado is certainly fitter than he was last year at the same stage and he’s working very hard at that aspect of it, as well. The usual suspects came in fairly fit, but it’s something that we’ll continue to grow and continue to improve upon. Without getting into more individuals, I’m pleased with the overall level of where we’re at.”

(Is Rosales going to be the captain again or is it going to be leadership-by-committee again?) “The more leaders we have the better it is for us. Obviously some prominent people aren’t here right now, like Brad Evans and some of the others are missing. But Mauro is certainly an important part of that leadership group. Michael Gspurning certainly in his second year has more of a role there. He’s no longer the new guy. The guys know what he’s all about. Ozzie always brings his daily work ethic to everything in training, so he’s an important cog in that. So I feel pretty good about where we’re at in terms of leadership that way. And, as always, for me the most important thing is now when we get into games, who is going to grab a hold of wheel when games are tight? Who is going to steady the ship at the right times? That’s the real leadership that has to emerge. It’s not so important who’s wearing the armband. It’s not so important who’s going up for the coin flip. What’s important is the guy who can right the ship in the middle of the game.”

(Have any young guys stepped up in that way?) “There’s lot of guys.” [Ed note: The call got a bit garbled during this answer, but Andy Rose and David Estrada were among the guys mentioned.]

(What do make of the departures of so many MLS players to Europe?) “This might be as many sales as MLS has had in a preseason period, so me personally, I think that’s a good thing. This might be the turning point of acceptance and recognition for American soccer. There’s been the isolated occurrences that have happened in the past — where it’s been the Clint Dempseys or the Jozy Altidores or whatever — but with the number of players now, with Kamara and Shea and Najar as an example … maybe the recognition given to the football being played in our league has increased from the European teams. So that’s a good thing. The bad thing is that means they’re going to pluck a little more, especially if these guys can be successful. But I really think it’s going to now come down to how Najar does, how Brek Shea does and how Kei Kamara does. If they all go over there, and two of the three are successful, it bodes well for our league. If three out of three fall on their face. Then it might set us back a little bit. If all three are successful it’s a tremendous boon. But our guys are always looking for those opportunities, as well. I think every player wants to play at the highest level possible. It’s just like the guy who’s playing basketball in Spain for Barcelona. He wants to play in the NBA for the Knicks or for the Lakers or maybe the Supersonics, so it’s something that you always strive for as a player. We’ve got guys who certainly strive for that same thing.”

(How do you think the league will manage without David Beckham for a while?) “I think there are still some popular names and players. Thierry Henry, he’s certainly the biggest name now associated with our league. Obviously Robbie Keane was very dangerous and very effective last year and is a good name, as well. I think it’s less important now than it was five-, six years ago, when David got here, where he gave the league a real push, a real recognition factor. He’s still a recognizable name and he still helps our league in terms of exposure. The league now can also bank on the fact that, ‘Oh yeah, that’s the league where David Beckham played in.’ So there’s an awareness of the league, there’s a recognition factor now that has come to the league because of David Beckham’s time here and I think our performance now and the ability of our players has to sustain it from here.”


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