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March 18, 2014 at 2:44 PM

Sigi Schmid on Marco Pappa’s rough start, Stefan’s Frei’s performance and more

Here are some highlights from our interviews with Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid after practices Monday and Tuesday. The topics range from Marco Pappa‘s slow start, the developing Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins partnership, Stefan Frei‘s performance after winning the No. 1 goalkeeper spot, and more.

*     *     *

MONDAY

(Any thoughts on the Toronto game after watching the film?) “Overall, I thought we had more of the game, for sure. Like I said afterwards, Defoe is a good player, so when you give him two good looks like that, he’s going to hurt you. I thought we did a better job of playing through the lines; I thought we got behind their midfield four and I thought we put ourselves in a number of good crossing positions. The quality of the crossing wasn’t what it needed to be. Caldwell comes up big. Cesar comes up big on Oba, as well, so we don’t get the goal.”

(Have you liked what you’ve seen from Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins working together?) “Yeah, it’s good. Clint’s got a goal and assist in two games. Oba picked up an assist in this one. For them to be able to find each other and be able to play off each other is important for that chemistry to develop. We still have to look for the right mix, too, as it involves our wide guys in the attack. We’re still looking and getting that going.”

(Do you think this fast start will help Dempsey after all the attention and pressure that was building on him?) “Yeah, I think him scoring a goal getting an assist, people always look at numbers. But I think he got a number of good touches on the ball. He was goal dangerous, he was around the area, he helped orchestrate our game and he was involved in our game, so I thought that was very good.”

(Obviously when you make a big mistake, it stays at the forefront, but what have you made of Marco Pappa’s struggles to start the year?) “Marco, he’s a skillful player and he’s definitely a good passer of the ball and somebody who can be dangerous. He’s got a good shot and I think his background, his pedigree speaks for itself. Nobody is more disappointed than he was in terms of that play, and for him, it’s just a matter of him finding a way into the rhythm of our game. The change a little bit from not having played a lot of minutes at Heerenveen at the end, getting used to game rhythm and game speed is something he’s growing accustomed to, as well.”

(So you still have confidence in him?) “Yeah, definitely. It’s a battle with us for those positions, especially as Tristan Bowen gets into that, as well. Chad Barrett, Cooper, Sean Okoli, there are a few guys who can play there, and everybody brings something a little bit different. Sometimes it maybe depends on the opponent in the game as to what is the right mix.”

TUESDAY

(We saw Chad Marshall leave practice early. Is he OK?) “He’s been bothered a little bit by a little twinge, and so just as a precaution we said, ‘Let’s see how it feels today,’ because he said it felt a little sore when we started practice. We said, ‘If it bothers you at all, let’s just go in and we’ll wait for tomorrow.’ It was more precautionary than anything.”

(Will the turf at Olympic Stadium play into your lineup decisions?) “Every turf is obviously a little bit different. I don’t know if it affects our lineup. We’re going to go up there with the best team we can and start the best team we can. I don’t think we play very many games on grass in the first couple months of the season; most of the games that we play are on either on turf at home or away. We’ve got Portland … and now Montreal is a turf game, as well. We just have to deal with it.”

(So Leo Gonzalez’ availability isn’t affected by it?) “No. If Leo’s ready, he’ll play.”

(As Lamar Neagle is set to face his former team, what growth have you seen from him?) “Obviously last year was a good season for him, a confidence-building year for him, and he’s got to build upon that. I think he’ll be the first to say he probably wasn’t as sharp in his first two games as he would’ve liked. Hopefully that sharpness will come along, because I’m sure he’s motivated to play against his old team.”

(You mentioned Michael Azira as at least someone in the mix to fight for minutes if Brad Evans isn’t able to go this weekend. What has he done to get in that position?) “He’s just a good, solid, steady player. There is a not a lot of flash or things to his game that way, but when you analyze his game, there are a lot of good nuts-and-bolts things that he does on the field. He keeps possession, he wins his fair share of tackles, he’s good at his timing coming forward late, but he’s just a good team person. He covers for people when they go. He just does the little things that some players need to do to make teams work.”

(We saw Jordan Morris out here. What have you seen from him?) “Well, obviously he’s one of our academy kids and he’s on school break right now, so he can come back and train with us for a few days. The college experience helps a lot of players, as we’ve seen with DeAndre and Sean Okoli, and he had a good experience at Stanford last year and he’ll continue to grow.”

(The goalkeeper position got a lot of attention in preseason, so what have you seen from Stefan Frei in these first two games?) “I think it was difficult for him on the two goals that Toronto scored, because the shot opportunities were pretty clear-cut, open chances for Defoe. He came up with a big save after that when he went to his right, made that save and tipped it over the bar, so I think his feet have been good. He’s been solid in that way, and just as a team want to continue to win games, so we have confidence in him, I think he’s played well in the two games he’s played, but Marcus is right there, as well.”

(What overall have you felt about the team’s play the past two games?) “I think we played better in Game 2 from a standpoint of the soccer and knocking the ball around and getting in behind their midfield line and creating chances. I think when you look at the game and look back at it, there were some pretty good chances that we had. It’s just a matter of our finishing has to be better. We have to make sure we get behind the back four a little bit better, but I thought there was definitely an improvement in the soccer from Week 1 to Week 2.”

(What are the thoughts heading on the road for the first time this season?) “This one is one of the tougher trips just because it takes a full day to travel there because you can’t get there direct anyway, so you have to connect into Montreal and it makes it a little difficult. We know it’s going to be cold. We’re going to be training indoors the day before the game and then play the game indoors, so this one is a little bit unusual that way. But travel sometimes is good because the guys get together with themselves in terms of being on the road and have meals together and hang out, so sometimes that’s a very good thing.”

(What did you make of the Ozzie Alonso-Michael Bradley meeting last game?) “I thought it was a good battle. I thought it was a good competition. I thought Michael Bradley did the things that his team needed him to do. Probably played maybe a little bit more conservative than he would’ve liked to have played in that game, but I thought he did a good job and covered a lot of ground. I thought Ozzie did a good job for us, as well. Obviously they’re two good players.”

(Any update on Alonso’s pursuits of being USMNT eligible?) “Really don’t know. That’s really a question more for (U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann) and Ozzie’s agent, who is working on it for him. I don’t know how far they’ve gotten. We obviously as a club have lent our support in whatever we can do … we’ve offered to do, but there really hasn’t been anything that we can do or a request that they’ve come at us with.”

| More in Sounders FC, Stop and chats

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