Here are a few notes from Sounders FC practice. It was a light session as the guys who played in Monday’s reserve game against Seattle University just did light drills to recover.
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— First off, here is an update on two midfielders who have missed a few games but are nearing their returns: Brad Evans (calf) and Andy Rose (hamstring). Coach Sigi Schmid said Evans “was able to go through all of training on Sunday, went through a workout yesterday and a workout again today — him and Rose. If they’re OK tomorrow, they should be full-in on Thursday with options to be able to be in the team somewhere on Saturday” on the road against Chivas USA.
— Schmid, looking back on Saturday’s 3-2 comeback win in Dallas, said his primary frustration is that the Sounders are still “very involved in the opponents’ goals” in terms of making mistakes. The comeback spirit, though, continued to impress him, as did the game-winner: “You look at the last goal that we scored. That was as good a goal as you’re going to see this year in the league in terms of just the overall play — the entry ball to (Obafemi Martins), the layoff to Clint (Dempsey), the combination with Clint and Chad (Barrett). It was very, very good.”
— It was a goal, Schmid said, could carry forward in terms of the team’s play: “You always build off good moments. … I think guys have a better understandings of where guys want the ball, when they want the ball. They know that, ‘OK, if I play the ball here and move, I have a good chance of getting the ball back again.’ So all those are encouraging things.”
— The team’s character was a big issue coming into the year. Schmid said these recent comebacks are evidence of the improvement. “We’ve had different little hurdles and challenges placed in front of us,” he said, “and we’ve coped with them pretty well.”
— Schmid said he’s noticed a “huge difference” in Dempsey this year, mainly that he came in fit and ready to go, and also that he’s more comfortable with the city and the team. Dempsey has “only” been fouled three times apiece in the last couple games, and Schmid said that might be another consequence of the team getting him the ball in better spaces (not those where he’s likely to take a hit).
— On the subject of protecting players, Schmid gave an example of something that happened in the Dallas game that I didn’t see on first viewing. “What they were doing was on their corner kicks, they were trying to grab (Chad) Marshall, even though he was a defender. It wasn’t like the defender grabbing the attacker. When you watch the replay of those corner kicks, you’ll see how many times those different players grabbed ahold of Marshall and tried to get Marshall from being able to head the ball clear. That’s something where you go into the next game and you sort of mention to the referee before the game, ‘Hey, watch these guys holding onto Marshall.’ Hopefully then he lends an eye to it, and that’s a way you can help your players.”
— Martins hasn’t been getting a lot of goals, but Schmid said today that he’s “very happy with Oba because I think he’s doing a lot of little things that don’t show up on the scoreboard. Clint’s free kick was fantastic, but we’ll all seen occasions where that wasn’t a goal. But Oba was there for the rebound and put it into the goal, so it would’ve been a goal either way, and it would’ve been Oba’s goal. That showed a lot of persistence on his part. There were a couple through-balls where he fought for the ball, he held off his opponent, the layoff to Dempsey prior to the third goal, where he’s in there playing with his back to goal as a target — he’s doing a lot of that work. I think his work for the team has been selfless and he’s been a very productive part and a very important part of our team.”
— Schmid went on to explain why such selflessness is key: “The guys know that you’re only as strong sometimes as your weakest link out on the field. As a coach, what we try to do is make sure that our weakest link is as strong as possible, because that makes us a better team. As we continue to do that, we become stronger and stronger. Guys realizing that, ‘Hey, I can’t get it done without your help and you can’t get it done without my help,’ is integral for us to go far when games are on that tipping scale — are they going to go this way or that way? — and I think that’s why we’ve been able to respond well.”
— Four of the Sounders’ six games this season have been decided by a goal in the 85th minute or later. Three of those have been in Seattle’s favor (Kansas City, Portland and Dallas) while one hasn’t (Columbus). So what changes at that point in the game? “Well, obviously physically at that point people start to get tired and sometimes mental mistakes happen and things like that,” Schmid said, “but it’s also been a tribute I think to our character and our persistence that we’re going to play through the end of the game. We’re not going to stop playing at 90 or at 88, so it’s a reflection of good character for us, but it’s also a reflection that our fitness is pretty good and we’re able to maintain our concentration for the most part, Columbus being the exception.”
— When it comes to Chivas USA, Saturday’s opponent, Schmid said he sees a much improved team with Wilmer Cabrera as coach, mainly in terms of organization and depth. There are, of course, two familiar guys on the team in ex-Sounder Mauro Rosales and on-loan Sounder Eriq Zavaleta. So how are they doing? “They seem to be doing all right,” Schmid said. “Mauro seems to be doing well. Like I’ve said, sometimes with a salary cap and everything, you can’t keep everybody. For Eriq, he felt that the opportunity to play there as a defender was a thing that he wanted to do, and he’s gotten a lot of games.”
— And did the Sounders know Zavaleta would be moving again from forward to center back? “Yeah, I knew that’s where Wilmer was planning to use him,” Schmid said. “That’s something we talked to Eriq about before he went on loan. I said, ‘Do you realize that this means they’re going to change you into a defender and we’ll look at you as a defender when this loan period is up and as you come back?’ He said that’s what he wanted to try to do.”
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Here is full video of Schmid’s interview: