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February 7, 2014 at 3:25 PM

Transcript of Thursday’s conference call with Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid

Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid held a conference call late Thursday afternoon with local reporters. It took me a while to get around to transcribing it, but here it is:

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(How has the Arizona portion of training camp gone so far and what have you taken from the first two games?) “First off, congrats to the Seahawks for winning the Super Bowl and for all you guys who got to go over there and cover it, and join all the partying and excitement. There is nothing better. For us right now in Arizona, things are going well. It’s been good weather for us to train in. We got a lot accomplished in training. I think we did a lot of good fitness work in the first week and the guys have really bonded well together, as well, in this period of time. They’re working for each other every day in training, pushing each other every day in training, so I’ve been really pleased where we’re at right now.”

(What do you look for when you’re watching trialists in these early games?) “What we’re looking for is guys who can help us further, guys who can add something to the team, something that we’re looking for positionally or that they have a quality in their game that’s going to make us better and enhance us a little bit. We’re still looking for a little more cover in the middle of midfield, so we’re looking that area. But we’re also always looking for guys who we think are quality players who can show that they can deal with the pressure of the game, that they respond to the instructions that we’re going to give them, and the coaching, and that they’ve got a good mentality in the sense of wanting to succeed in the game and finding out ways to win the game. There are obviously quite a few guys that we think have done well at this stage.”

(What will be your approach to integrating guys like Marco Pappa, Brad Evans and DeAndre Yedlin back into training?) “We didn’t take them with us (Thursday) when we went to Casa Grande because we wanted to train and get their feet on the ground still in terms of Brad and DeAndre, since they just rejoined us. Brad and DeAndre, their situation is a little different because they’ve really gone through a very intensive, physically demanding camp with the national team, often times three sessions a day in very hot weather, so I’m not concerned with them right now as to where they are fitness-wise. I think they should be fairly close to where we’re at if not beyond that at this stage. So we just wanted them to get back into a routine after we gave them a few days off. With Marco Pappa, it’s been a situation of since he finished in Heerenveen in late December, he really hasn’t trained all that much, so we wanted to make sure we didn’t throw him into a game too early. We wanted to get him some training, and his training was a little more geared today to doing some fitness work at the end. We felt today was a good day to push some fitness onto him. Then we hope to get him on the field in a game either Saturday or Sunday. We don’t know which, but probably for only 30 minutes, because again, you don’t want to put him in and have him do too much too early and result in a setback.”

(It seems like four games in five days would be tough to manage. What went into scheduling it like that?) “What we wanted to do is we wanted to have enough games to look at players and evaluate them. So what we really had is a situation where on Wednesday afternoon, one group played 45 and another group played 45. Today we did the same thing. I think there were a total of four or five guys who ended up playing 45 or Wednesday and came back again today and played 45. So we felt all those guys were at a stage where fitness-wise they were a little bit ahead of the rest of the group and some of our fitter players, like Estrada, Remick or Anibaba, so they could handle that sort of workload. We feel going into Saturday-Sunday it’s the same sort of thing. We’re going to try and push our group 60 minutes and then we’ll push another group 60 minutes on Sunday, and then we’ll have another group that will play 30 each day.”

(Have you changed how you approach this preseason with so many new faces?) “No. Our approach has always been the same, but I think what’s happening right now is simply I think the new faces basically rejuvenate everyone a little bit, not only the coaching staff but also the players. There are guys here who have come from other clubs who see what the situation is now in Seattle and who look at it and are excited about being here. You’ve got some young faces in here, as well, in Sean Okoli and Aaron Kovar out of our academy, so they’re full of energy and trying to get after it, and guys appreciate that. I think it’s brought a really good work ethic to the group as a whole, so as a result of managing that whole integration, we really haven’t changed anything. But the buy-in from the players has been superb and the energy level of the players has been excellent.”

(How do you think you’ll use Marco Pappa in the lineup?) “Marco has played primarily as a wide midfielder. He’s a left-footed midfielder who feels comfortable playing on the right cutting in to his left, but he can also play on the left side of midfield. I think he’s a player who for him to have success, he needs to see the ball because he’s a good passer and he’s also got a good shot from distance. He’s someone who will probably fit into our team from that wide position. Are we going to play a 4-4-2 or are we going to play a 4-2-3-1? He’d play as a winger in a 4-2-3-1 or as a wide midfielder in a 4-4-2; I think he can do either one. But either one, he’s going to have the freedom to come inside a little bit and look for the ball.”

(What have you seen from Andy Rose in wanting to have a bounce-back year?) “I think Andy realizes that last year didn’t get off to the best start for him. I think his mentality has been very good coming in. What we’re pleased with is his play, not just the fitness that he came in at but his play. Today we asked him to play as the deeper midfielder, the role that Ozzie normally plays, and he did a great job there defensively. But he also did a great job playing balls forward and playing a lot more penetrating passes and balls forward into the feet of people, where last year he was playing some of those balls square. That’s something we’ve really encouraged him to do and tried to get out of him, and he’s really working hard on that. So that’s what we’re most happy with. He’s definitely confident right now because he sees that happening and going well for him.”

(What was it like to see DeAndre Yedlin make his international debut?) “Obviously fantastic for DeAndre. I think anytime you make your debut for the national team there are the plusses and minuses that come with it. The plusses are you’re excited and there is probably a little bit of nervous energy there, but to accomplish that feat is a great feather in your cap. There is probably that little bit of nerves sometimes, you can’t wait to touch your first ball, and maybe it’s not your best touch in the world and then you have to overcome that. But I know Jurgen was pleased with what DeAndre did in camp. He knows that he’s definitely someone he can bank on for the future beyond Brazil, and whether he’s able to get on the team for Brazil probably depends on injuries and the health of some other players at this stage. For DeAndre, at his age, to be able to have to experience and exposure is going to be a huge help. To get his first cap under his belt is something he should be very, very proud of, and as a club, we’re very proud that we helped get him to that place.”

(How do you balance your desire for him to do with the Sounders but also wanting to see him have a chance to live his dream and go to Brazil?) “I think they go hand in hand. I think the more successful he is with us and the better he plays for us, and the consistency of his performances with the Sounders, those are things that go hand in hand in terms of pushing him to the next level. I know there was some talk about there that another team and another coach in this league was going to play a player at a certain position to help his World Cup interests. I don’t necessarily think that’s going to happen. I think you’re going to play the player where he’s going to help your team the most, but on the same token, that player performing is going to push him and get him opportunities at the next level. We’re going to continue to support DeAndre, and if he’s fortunate enough to get picked for the final World Cup roster and go to Brazil, I know we’re going to miss him in that period of time, but for him, it’s going to be a tremendous experience. We’re always going to be supportive of our players as they continue to do well in their careers and international careers.”

(How did you handle Super Bowl Sunday? Did you get to watch? And is bringing another title to this city something you talked to with the team?) “We started off on Saturday by having our own football game. Our trainer Chris Cornish is a huge Broncos fan, which probably shouldn’t be announced to the world at this stage, so we let him pick a team as well as Nolan Myer, who’s a huge Seahawks fans. Within our game, as well, the Seahawks easily beat the Broncos in that football game on Saturday. On Sunday, we gave the guys the day off. We split up in the morning and did some different things. A lot of the guys were here at the hotel and watched the game together at the hotel on a bunch of TVs all over the place. They had some specialty food stuff and things like that they could kind of nosh on. And some guys got together and went to places like Buffalo Wild Wings and different places around. As a coaching staff we went together someplace and watched the game, bought some drinks for some Broncos fans so they could drown their miseries. And we’re hoping that the smell of victory that exists at VMAC, we’re able to breathe in and put into our DNA and hopefully we’re able to have another parade in December.”

(How has the dynamic between Kenny Cooper and Obafemi Martins looked so far from what you saw in 45 minutes Wednesday?) “I thought it was good. We wanted Oba to be more of the higher forward and play higher, because I think that’s where he’s most comfortable. Last year for us, oftentimes he dropped a little bit deeper because it was also a role Eddie Johnson was most comfortable in — so Oba was the one who dropped. But Oba stayed high and Kenny played underneath him a little bit. There were times that Oba dropped and Kenny pushed high, so I thought their understanding with each other was very good. Oba was obviously where he needed to be and ended up scoring two goals. Both were from about six or seven yards out, but those are the ones you have to put in and those are goal-scorer’s goals. I thought Kenny did a good job of dropping underneath and picking up the ball and connecting passes. A lot of times the openings we created were the result of Kenny getting the ball and spraying it out to Lamar Neagle or getting it to Tristan Bowen, and giving them opportunities to attack their players. So I thought the coordination was good, and they worked hard for each other, so I thought that was good, as well.”

(How would you compare it to the other forward pairings you’ve had here in the past?) “You can never tell. Practice games and exhibition games are games that don’t count. You can’t tell for sure until you get out there and games count. But certainly I think one of the things we’re really trying to drill into this team is … that some things are going to go wrong and you just have to work through it. As long as we keep fighting and battling, more things will go right than will go wrong. We have enough talent on the field and enough people who can run and work off the ball that if we keep fighting through obstacles, we’re going to create good opportunities for ourselves. I think these last two games have been good examples of that. In the first half of each game, I thought both teams did a good job of pressing and working hard together defensively, but that defense created a tremendous amount of offense for us. Oba and Kenny are part of that combination, because they’ve also done a good job of harassing the opponent and making it difficult for the opponent to play out, which has allowed us to win the ball sooner and get into our attack quicker, which helps them because then they’re closer to goal and the runs are smaller distances.”

(Can you give us some injury updates on guys like Leo Gonzalez, Will Bates, James Morrison and Jimmy Ockford, who looked to take a knock Wednesday?) “Leo Gonzalez first, he’s doing well. The last two days he’s participated in training as sort of a neutral player and today he worked with Pappa on the extra fitness. So we feel Leo is coming along really well at this stage. Jimmy Ockford, today we held him out because he banged up his knee a little bit yesterday. We don’t think it’s anything serious, but we have to see. Is it going to be a two-day thing? Is it going to be a week thing? We don’t think it’s going to be that long. … Will Bates we left home and he’s coming along and I think starting to jog on the treadmill at home, so he’s coming along that way. Then Morrison, he’s coming along slowly. I don’t know where he was at today. That’s one report I haven’t gotten back yet, but he made good progress yesterday and we’re going to continue to evaluate his progress. As a trialist for us with him, we have to see how soon he’s going to be able to come back and whether we keep him with us at this stage or whether we let him go home and then come back.”

(Where do you expect the goals are going to come from this season after losing your leading scorer?) “Well, I think Obafemi has shown that he can score goals for us. When he’s healthy, his goal-scoring record is pretty good. Obviously getting two goals in our first scrimmage game was a very good indication; goal scorers love scoring goals. Kenny Cooper, even in “bad” years, has been able to figure out a way to score seven, eight goals a season, even when it’s considered an “off” season. We expect those two guys to get goals. Lamar Neagle is an option for us up front. He got some goals for us there last year. We have Chad Barrett in our team now who has shown when he gets regular minutes, he’s capable of seven, eight goals over a season. Can he give us some goals coming off the bench and also at times in a starting position? Then you have Clint Dempsey who I think will score a lot more goals than he scored last year. I think for him, it’s just getting into the rhythm of play in our league and being sharp, and I think he’ll get his fair share of goals, as well. I think the goals are going to come from a number of sources and I think we’re going to find goals. At the end of the day, I’m very confident we’re going to score more goals than we scored last year as a team.”

(What do you did make of Bruce Arena getting a new contract?) “I’m happy for Bruce; he can take me to dinner a few more times. I have to call him up and let him know the next time I’m in Manhattan Beach so we can celebrate that. It’s good. Bruce has been around the league, he’s coached, and he’s in a pretty secure situation in L.A., a comfortable situation where he wears a number of hats in the organization. You have a new person sort of running AGE in Dan Beckerman, and Dan is … not as involved in a daily situation say as for example Tim Leiweke was. For Bruce, he’s had good success and he deserves the contract. I wish him all the best.”

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