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January 16, 2014 at 1:17 PM

Schmid: ‘We’re still looking at a couple things for midfield (help) and then we’ll be set to go.’

Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid spoke with reporters after Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft, where Seattle selected defenders Damion Lowe and Jimmy Ockford. Schmid spoke to how the draft went (the Sounders tried to trade up), how roster construction has gone, the new-look defense, Eriq Zavaleta’s future, expecting Obafemi Martins to report Day 1 of preseason and more.

Here is a transcript:

*     *     *

(How would you describe how the day went with all the crazy trades early in the first round?) “I thought it went OK. Obviously we were trying to get in on that merry-go-round, as well, and tried to trade up. We thought there were four guys that were worth trading up for. Once those four guys were gone, then there was no need to at that stage. But obviously a lot of it hinged (Andre) Blake. He was the first big-time goalkeeper to maybe come out in a while. D.C. convinced everyone that they were going to possibly pick Blake, which, between you and me, I didn’t think was going to happen. So they had a lot of action, and Philly paid money to just jump one spot. It became an interesting draft from that standpoint, because that dynamic set everything else into motion. Then things started flipping around.”

(You drafted two defenders today after a big trade involving three defenders Wednesday. What can you say about the team’s changes in the back recently?) “I think it’s got to be looked at in conjunction with the other stuff we’ve done in the offseason so far. I think when you look at the homegrown players that we signed, Sean Okoli is an attacking player and (Aaron) Kovar is an attacking player. We brought in (Kenny) Cooper as a forward. (Lamar) Neagle, obviously, we re-signed as a forward. We have (Obafemi Martins) still. We also brought in Tristan Bowen, who’s really a forward or wide player. So we felt we really took care of some of those options and we also got ourselves younger and more athletic in that area. Then the other area we wanted to attack was the defending area, to get younger and also more athletic. We hate to see (Jhon Kennedy Hurtado) leave and we hate to see (Patrick) Ianni, because they’ve been good guys for the club and have done well, but now we’ve got (Jalil) Anibaba who is 25. We’ve got (Damion) Lowe, who is Generation adidas and has huge upside at 20, and we picked up Jimmy Ockford, who if you compared him to anyone is a young Zach Scott. He just goes through anything and he’s only played one year at center back. He’d played as a midfielder the three years prior to that. We felt we came away and we got our defense younger. Now it’s just a matter of we’re still looking at a couple things for midfield, and then we’ll be set to go.”

(It seemed like we saw a lot of defenders drafted early. Do you feel college soccer does a better job producing defenders?) “No, to be honest, we’ve been looking for a younger center-back for a while and it hasn’t worked out for us. Three years ago, Leone Cruz ended up not working out for us. It turned out at the end it paid off for us, because he allowed us to get Andy Rose on a trade. But then you had (Andrew) Duran, who didn’t work out for us, really. This year we thought the draft was pretty good at center back. Even down to the guy the Galaxy picked, (Kyle) Venter, we (liked) all those guys. And we had (Nick) Hagglund pretty high, too, who Toronto took. We liked Lowe, because he’s Generation adidas, better. But there were possibly seven or eight center backs, and there are still a couple there, that we felt could all have good physical characteristics to succeed in our league. I think it was a little bit of a deeper at center back than other years.”

(What does this year’s trade say about Eriq Zavaleta’s future at either forward or defender?) “After preseason and playing him center back in preseason, we decided forward was really the best place for him. So we made that commitment. We loaned him out during the season, as well, to San Antonio to play up front and we see him in our forward mix. From that standpoint, that’s where he’s going to do battle. He’s different than the other forwards we have. He’s not a similar forward to say a Sean Okoli or Tristan Bowen, who we brought in and are more dynamic wide guys. Zavaleta is a target guy and plays up top, and Oba likes to be higher, as well. (Martins) played underneath Eddie last year more, but he likes to be high and, Zavaleta is really the next guy who likes to be high. Even Cooper likes to move around a little bit. So (Zavaleta) still has a very important role to play for us as we move forward here.”

(Aside from his GA contract, what did you really like about Lowe?) “He’s got a great frame. He’s very athletic. He had five goals for Hartford last year, so he’s dangerous coming forward on set pieces. I think he’s going to learn a lot from a guy like Chad Marshall. I think he’s still going to get stronger and bigger. His father was obviously a very talented player who played for the Jamaican national team on multiple occasions and played in a World Cup and all of that stuff. He played professionally overseas and in MLS. In the interview, he was really solid. We thought he was a good character. He had a very good thought process on how to become better and what he needs to do to become better. When he was there and he was available, we felt all things considered he was the best pick for us.”

(Was he a player you were targeting with the move up to No. 8, or what were the motivations behind that move?) “By moving up to 8 in the trade with Chicago, one of the main things we were trying to accomplish is it’s a lot easier to move from 8 into the top five than it is to move from 13 into the top five. It’s easier to move from 8 up there, so were hoping to parlay and maybe move it up maybe a little bit higher. That’s what didn’t work out, but we also went through our draft list and said, ‘There are three guys here who we’d still be happy with at 8, if it came down to it and we didn’t get anybody. Hopefully one of those guys will be available,’ and it ended up somebody was available that we didn’t think was going to go to 8 and drop that low.”

(So you had Lowe projected as possibly going higher?) “Yeah. We really thought he’d go probably 6 or 7. That’s what we thought. I know there were some teams and some coaches that I know well that I was talking to, who didn’t have early picks, who had Lowe pretty high. They were pretty surprised he dropped to 8, as well. There was even one team who said to me, ‘God, we saw him drop that low and we were hoping he’d keep going! Then you guys picked him.'”

(Did you guy have any role in getting Lowe onto the GA class late or was it a happy circumstance?) “Just a happy circumstance. We didn’t get involved in that. A lot of times when players are Generation adidas, there have got to be a couple teams that step to the front and say, ‘Yeah, this is a guy who we’ll pick.’ We made a commitment to a guy that they didn’t sign to Generation adidas that we said we’d do that for, and obviously there were some guys in there that us and a number of other teams said we would pick. But for Lowe, it was more a happy coincidence. All of us — Brian Schmetzer, Kurt especially, Kurt Schmid — do a really good job in our research talking to people. We found a bunch of highlights on him. In the last week, I probably watched two hours of Lowe playing in games and highlights and things like that. The other coaches did the same sort of thing, so we all felt comfortable with what we saw in the combine and what we saw on tape.”

(There seem to be a lot of international reports on Obafemi Martins potentially going here and there. Is he expected in camp at the start of preseason or are you exploring any options with him?) “Our expectation is that Oba is going to be there when we start preseason. I think he has a bad travel agent, so he gets a lot of connections when he’s trying to get back to the States. There is a lot of connecting stops along the way. (laughs) … But we expect him to be here at the start of the season. There is nothing that he’s said to us that indicates anything different.”

(Have you heard about Jimmy Ockford’s rapping?) “No, I haven’t, but I hear he’s a good rapper, so I’m sure that’s something in preseason we’re going to hear in Tucson at some point. We’ll see how good he is. We might have to bring (Steve) Zakuani back just for a day so they can rap against each other.”

| More in Sounders FC, Stop and chats, SuperDraft


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