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March 7, 2014 at 3:52 PM

Friday notes: Clint Dempsey back and will be available in season opener

I’ve posted a few things already from Friday’s practice, but here are a few other notes from our interview with Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid:

*     *     *

— Much of the attention was on Clint Dempsey‘s arrival, and Schmid confirmed the returning DP is set to be available in Saturday’s opener. “He’ll be in the 18 tomorrow, for sure,” the coach said. “I think he was in good spirits. A lot of things change in the six, seven months. The first time he came here he was coming into a new situation and an unfamiliar situation, and now he’s coming back home. He’s coming into a familiar situation, he knows what the team is like, he knows what the locker room is like, and he knows what this is all about. You can already see the comfort. He banged away a couple of good goals in the training session. I feel very confident in what he’s going to be able to give us tomorrow.”

— One things Schmid is that Dempsey is “definitely fit.” That is evident from the games he’s played and also the reputation of new Fulham coach Felix Magath.

— Unsigned players like Kevin Parsemain, John Arroyo and Cam Weaver are still training with the team. Asked about those guys, Schmid indicated there are moves to come: “There are things that we’re working on. There are things in the process right now. Hopefully things will get resolved sooner rather than later, but that’s just the nature of the beast at this point.”

— Schmid once again declined to name a starting goalkeeper, but he said the team knows what decision has been made.

— Speaking of goalkeepers, Schmid was asked how he evaluates goalkeepers, particularly someone like Stefan Frei, who had poor numbers on paper with a struggling Toronto FC team from 2009-11 even while many felt he was one of the team’s better players. “I don’t look for any of that stuff with the statistics. From Day 1, when I became a head coach at UCLA, I promised myself I’d always have good goalkeepers. The one big thing that I look for is presence. What kind of presence does a goalkeeper have? Does he look like a goalkeeper? Does he smell like a goalkeeper? Does he act like a goalkeeper? That for me is very important. The German word for it is ausstrahlung, and it’s a thing I talked to Stefan about. I said that’s what I’m looking for. It’s really presence. How you command. How you control the situation. What do you look like? Do you look like you’re in charge? Do you look like you’re in control? I think that’s really, really important. I think Stefan has that and I think Marcus (Hahnemann) has that, as well.”

— So what does a goalkeeper smell like? “Dirty,” Schmid said with a laugh. “You never know. Not like Degree or something.”

— Schmid once again offered praise for new signing Gonzalo Pineda, saying the former Mexican international is “going to be an important player for us throughout the season. He’s somebody who brings experience and he’s technically very, very good. He reads the game. He sees the game. He’s also a very good personality. He’s a good guy in the group. He’s a good player to have around some of our younger players, so they can see what’s a good experienced pro, what he’s all about, how he trains, how he approaches things. So I think he’s going to be good for us on the field, but I also think he’s going to be good for us off the field.”

— Facing the defending MLS champion in Week 1, Schmid said, is more of an opportunity than a challenge. “It gives us a chance to measure ourselves right now,” he added. “I know they’re going into the game with the attitude of saying, ‘Hey, we’re the team, and we’re going to be every bit as good as last year,’ and we’re going in with the attitude of, ‘Last year was last year and this is what we’re all about.’”

— So did Schmid see the Western Conference improving as a whole or with any specific teams over the offseason? “The league improves year after year; it always gets tougher,” he said. “Certainly when you look at the West, you look at some of the recent additions that Vancouver made to their squad, you look at the additions that Portland has made, you look at the additions that L.A. has made, those are obviously some pretty formidable situations. San Jose has switched around a little bit. The East, a lot of teams have made moves there and improved themselves. I think the league continues to grow, continues to improve themselves year in and year out. Dallas as well with the pickup of Oscar (Pareja) as the coach and Hendry Thomas, etc. But that just means that you’ve got to stay there, as well. You can’t sit back and rest on what you’ve accomplished. You’ve got to continue to grow and improve, and I think we’re doing that.”

— Lastly, there are a lot of national media in town including ESPN.com’s Jeff Carlisle and Goal.com’s Ives Galarcep, so keep on the lookout from stuff from them, as well.

| More in Practice notes, Sounders FC

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