Here are a few notes from Sounders FC practice Monday at Starfire:
* * *
— Brad Evans wasn’t with the team since he’s doing media and marketing work for the league on the East Coast.
— With the Sounders set to leave for Charleston on Wednesday, coach Sigi Schmid was asked if he takes some pride in seeing players like Lamar Neagle go back to where they were before establishing themselves in MLS. “Yeah, it’s great for him,” Schmid said. “… I think Lamar’s progress shows that maybe if you’re not one of the top 50 coming out of college in people’s minds, there is still an opportunity for you if you continue to work hard, and if you fall into the right situation, go to the right place where you’re going to get some playing time.”
— Schmid noted the relationship with Charleston — one that has seen shared players like Osvaldo Alonso, Alex Caskey, Michael Azira and Amadou Sanyang — has changed since the Battery became affiliated with the Vancouver Whitecaps.
— Part of the motivation to go to the Carolina Challenge Cup was partly to try something new (Schmid has never participated with any of his teams over the years). After winning the Desert Diamond Cup last preseason, the team wanted to go someplace else. They might return to Tucson in 2015, and Schmid also noted he’s never been involved with the Disney tournament.
— Here are Schmid’s thoughts on Azira, a trialist in camp from Charleston: “He came in last summer and I thought he did well when he trained with us. He played one reserve game with us. He’s a steady player. He’s shown us in preseason right now, too, that he’s versatile; he can play deep in midfield but he can also play as one of the outside backs, right or left, and that helps. He’s just a good steady player that’s gotten along great with the group, so right now he’s in the hunt and pushing hard for one of those final spots on the team.”
— Schmid said he thinks the depth this year is better than last, and particularly noted the competition is tight at forward and wide midfield this camp.
— Defender Leo Gonzalez is progressing well from his injury and is in contention to play in Charleston and start on opening day. Schmid had a lot of praise for how guys like Gonzalez and Djimi Traore are mentoring the young players like Dylan Remick and DeAndre Yedlin: “Having older players bring younger players along makes the club stronger.”
— Another veteran in camp is trialist Gonzalo Pineda, a former Mexican international. I asked Schmid how he handles a veteran player with this type of experience, particularly how much on his trial is talent evaluation and how much is finding the right fit. “Obviously he’s a very talented player,” Schmid said. “He’s got a lot of experience, so it’s about seeing the right fit. When a player gets older it’s also about seeing where he’s at phsycially, so you want to see those demands and how the group feels, as well, which is back to the fit thing. But he’s been great. He’s played. He’s worked hard. He’s listened. He’s fit in well with the group. He’s been doing well.”
— And is Pineda’s situation similar to that of Mauro Rosales before 2011? “Similar, but a little different because they play different positions. Similar in terms of they’re about the same age. They’re both veteran players with good experience who for one reason or another were sort of pushed aside in their club situations. With Gonzalo, it’s a little bit more where he had had a surgery. He’s coming off that surgery, so that’s part of the reason he hadn’t had a lot of playing time. So we really have to see. Our need was a littler greater I think when Mauro came to our team in terms of that position for a player, so it was an easier insertion.”