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May 31, 2013 at 4:03 PM

Injury updates from Sigi Schmid and why Chivas USA is especially dangerous this week

schmid mug 2013Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid held a conference call with local reporters Friday afternoon ahead of a road game against Chivas USA.

Here is a full transcript with some injury updates, thoughts on Sharlie Joseph’s increased suspension, Chivas USA’s disarray, his own team’s struggles, an MLS-only schedule from now on, Gold Cup chances for Brad Evans/Eddie Johnson, some advice for the MLS Disciplinary Committee and more…

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(What updates can you give on whether Osvaldo Alonso and/or Steve Zakuani traveled and might be available?) “Alonso traveled down here. Steve Zakuani did not. We’ll make a determination tomorrow morning and it’ll be more of a day-of-game decision with Ozzie. He trained today, so that was good. Now we’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”

(What did you make of Shalrie Joseph being suspended an extra game?) “The Disciplinary Committee looks at those things, and obviously that’s their decision and their call. I think he has the right to appeal through the union. I don’t know if he’s going to use that or try to pursue that. That’s something that he’d have to be asked. I try not to say anything there so I don’t get in trouble.”

(What do you make of Chivas this week as they have a seven-game winless streak, a new coach, the league’s lowest attendance, the press release defending themselves from a discrimination lawsuit and all that franchise disarray?) “I think it makes them all the more dangerous. I wish none of that would have happened this week. I wish they would’ve still had that same coach. I wish they wouldn’t have had to put out the press release. I wish they wouldn’t have had an interim coach right now. Because right now we’re running in the blind. We’re guessing. We sort of knew the system of play that the old coach was playing. We didn’t know necessarily who the players were going to be on the field, because they changed the lineup so frequently, but we knew they played with three in the back. We knew that they sort of played with four or five in midfield. Sometimes four and three up front. Sometimes five in midfield and two up front. We knew that they were pretty constant in terms of how they tried to approach the game. Now we’re going into the game and we don’t know what changes the interim coach is going to bring. Is he going to switch to four in the back? Is he going to have them play more of a traditional formation? Is he going to have them play aggressively in terms of playing forward and making runs forward like the team did before? Those are all now, for us, unknowns. So from that standpoint, the topsy-turvy week that they’ve had makes it a little bit more difficult for us to prepare.”

(Have any of those old bad habits from earlier in the year creeped back in or are these recent struggles completely different?) “It’s a little bit like when we played against Salt Lake. I thought against L.A. we had a terrible first half and dug ourselves a hole that we didn’t get out of. In Tampa, it was an Open Cup match. It’s one of those where the field wasn’t good; it was a direct game in terms of style of play. They got a goal. We should’ve had one and should’ve equalized on the PK. Then all those things change and it’s a little bit different. But we can’t forget what got us back on the winning path. We have to go back to our roots of just working hard, competing for every loose ball, being quicker in terms of closing people down again, and just being better with the ball. We weren’t good with the ball against L.A., and that really hurt us because we gave away possession too easily I thought. And then in Tampa it was hard just because it wasn’t the kind of field you could really possess the ball on. That’s a game that maybe doesn’t always suit us as well as it might suit other teams. We have to do a good job of possessing the ball. We have to do a good job of defensively working as a unit and closing things down.”

(Is there a positive to being able to focus only on MLS now?) “Yeah. It’s nice to be only focused on that, but also if I’m a player on this team, I’m disappointed, because there are also game opportunities that for some guys are now out the window. And so if you’re a player who’s not getting regular first-team minutes, you welcome the Open Cup, because you know that’s a chance to get on the field and show you belong on the field more. That’s where some guys in past years have sort of earned their way into playing time, whether it’s Zach Scott in the initial years, whether it was an Alex Caskey or an Andy Rose — those guys earned their way in there. Now those opportunities are lost for those players, so that part is disappointing. We can focus on MLS, and our focus has got to be there, but now everybody’s focus has got to be on training, because the only place you’re going to earn time is in training and in the occasional reserve game that we have.”

(What is your message to the team going into Saturday?) “The message to the team is that you can’t be complacent. You can’t think you’re there. The moment you think you’re there, then something comes up and bites you in the rear-end. You can’t be complacent. As players, you have to realize that every day you’re fighting for your job. Sometimes players think it’s like, ‘OK, well I’m secure and I’m safe,’ or whatever. You’ve got to just realize that you’re only as good as your last game. Every day is a new challenge for all of us, for the coaching staff and the players on the field. People have short memories oftentimes, so right now it’s about us getting people to think about this game on Saturday against Chivas and how we do in this game, and forgetting about the other two.”

(Do you feel it’s just a couple tweaks needed and not overwhelming change?) “Like I said, in the L.A. game, I think our inability to possess the ball really hurt us and we didn’t close them down. Our lack of quickness at times — or a lack of anticipation might be a better way to say it — really hurt us on the field. When you’re defending all the time and you don’t possess the ball, then defending well becomes a greater priority. And defending with greater concentration becomes a greater priority, and that was something that we didn’t do. When I talk about going back to our roots, what I mean by our roots is we have to defend with good concentration, we have to anticipate things defensively, but when we win the ball, we also have to keep the ball. We have to keep the ball. We have to be goal-dangerous, but more so than anything we have to keep the ball and make the other team adapt their formation to us, rather than us having to adapt to them because we’re giving possession away so much.”

(How do you handle Alonso and not wanting to rush him back before he’s ready?) “What you always do in all my years of coaching is you try and make decisions that are best for the team, and usually the decisions that are best for the team end up being the decisions that are best for the individual, as well. In Ozzie’s case, you can say, ‘Oh, well it’s best for the team to put him on the field,’ but if putting him on the field in this game puts him into very high probability of reinjuring himself or making the injury worse, then that’s really not best for the team. That ends up being the worst thing for the team. So what you’re doing is constantly running that balance, that, ‘Yeah, we need him on the field, so do we put him on the field? What are the chances of him reinjuring? What are the chances of him having a new injury as a result of this?’ Those are the things you balance. You try to make a decision that’s best for the team and that decision is usually best for the individual.”

(With so many veterans away, who are the leaders right now?) “We still have people. Obviously Djimi Traore can fill that role. He’s a player with a lot of experience. He’s shown some good locker room leadership, as well, for us, and he’s an important guy there. Servando Carrasco has been around. He’s on the field. You’ve got players like him that are available to do that. Zach Scott has been on the field. Kennedy Hurtado has played a lot of years here already. There are a lot of guys who can step up. For sure, in our game in Tampa, it wasn’t a lack of leadership. I thought the guys were good about getting together as a group when the goal happened, really saying, ‘Hey, we have to step this up a level,’ and they did. So I was happy with that part of it, for sure.”

(It looked like Obafemi Martins talked with someone at the spot before taking the PK? Were you happy with him taking it and how that played out?) “At the end of the day, the players decide on the field who’s going to hit the PK. We always write down before the game who is in line to hit the PK. Obviously Obafemi wasn’t on that list because he wasn’t starting in the game, and when the penalty kick situation came up, Carrasco was on that list. He had the ball. Obafemi and him had a discussion. He decided to let Oba take it. I’m going to respect Servando’s decision and Oba’s decision on the field. Sometimes you make penalties and sometimes you miss them.”

(Are you anticipating Eddie Johnson and Brad Evans won’t be on the final Gold Cup roster?) “For that tournament, the initial list was 35 players, so that’s kind of a catch-all. I think at the end, I don’t know if they’re allowed to have 22 or 23 for the actual competition. The Gold Cup has a unique twist in it where either after the group stage or the quarterfinal — I forget which, I think it might be after the group stage — you’re allowed to trade out three or four players. You can take three or four who were on your provisional list and add them to your roster and drop three or four, which is a unique element of the Gold Cup tournament. I’ve talked to Jurgen. I know we had sort of had our discussions and have an understanding of where it is for them. I wasn’t sure if Evans was going to stay all the way through all the World Cup qualifiers. It looks now like he might be, so if he is, I think his chances of being in the Gold Cup are decreased. And same thing with Eddie.

(Is there any less stress on your players with not knowing what Chivas will be doing?) “I don’t if it takes stress off the players. If you’re approaching the game with a little uncertainty, it means you have to be a little more mentally attuned to the game, for sure, because you don’t know, ‘Are they coming with four? Are they coming with three in the back? Who is playing where?’ So you have to be a little mentally sharper and be more in tune. You have to adjust quicker as you get into the game. I think it takes an edge off their players … because everyone has a new chance and everyone gets to regroup themselves. Everybody’s got to show again what they’re going to do, so there’s a huge motivational push that happens for them. They know that even though it’s an interim coach, his report is going to go to the new head coach. The new head coach is going to want to watch this game. Everybody is starting at ground zero again, so they’re going to be highly motivated — more motivated, I think, than they would’ve been otherwise.”

(What do you make of veteran players being undisciplined and putting you in a bad place with lineup choices?) “Obviously you want to stay disciplined on the field all the time and you don’t want players to get red cards. Sometimes the frustration level set in, especially in a game where the other team has pretty much dominated the game. You’re a proud player and you’re a proud individual and you’re a proud team, and so a little bit of that pride plays into it and you maybe don’t react ideally because of that. For me, the other side of the equation sometimes is, and taking nothing away from the incident and whether it should’ve been a red card or not, I’m not arguing that in any stretch of the imagination, but sometimes I think everybody — the league — has to look at certain players seem to bear the brunt of these kinds of outbursts. I know there was a slur by Marc Burch and there’s a slur earlier in the year, and ironically they’re both directed at the same player. Certain times you look at fouls and it seems like reactions or retaliations situations occur with the same guy. I think sometimes you have to look at it and say, ‘What is this guy doing that we’re not seeing to instigate all this stuff? Why does it always seem that players when they get caught with the hand in the cookie jar, so to speak, in retaliating, it seems to be against the same guy?’ If there’s a pattern there, I think that’s something that the Disciplinary Committee needs to look at, as well — not just the pattern of the secondary retaliation, but also if there’s a pattern, if there’s a constant or the same guy on the other side of the coin. And I’m not saying Sarvas is that guy, because this was against Sarvas, but I’m just saying that’s something that gets overlooked by the Disciplinary Committee. At the end of the day, I respect their decision and we have to be in control of our emotions. It’s disappointing and I know Shalrie is disappointed.”

(Have you been able to watch Jordan Morris and the U-20s?) “I’ve recorded the game but I haven’t been able to see the game yet. I thought I had it recorded here in my home at Manhattan Beach, but we had a blackout, so the recorder didn’t work and I have to wait until I get up to Seattle to see it. I know Chris Henderson is over there watching the games in the Toulon tournament, so he saw the game. We’re definitely keeping tabs on it, but I personally haven’t seen the game yet.”

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