A few just misses in MLS play shouldn't overshadow that in 2012 Ochoa is a non-league star. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
With the Sounders playing so many games every year there are players that get a chance that would not on other teams, or just as subs. This year that man is Sammy Ochoa. He has six starts and one sub appearance in non-league matches in 2012. In those games he's banged in six goals and earned an assist. In MLS play Ochoa has one goal in a start and five sub appearances.
Ochoa's ability to succeed in these matches that average out to once every three weeks or so gives Sigi Schmid options to rest his primary forward pairing and know that there will still be goals. He's also not the first to have success in non-league matches while not doing quite as well in MLS play.
Five of Mike Fucito's 10 goals were in CCL action, another two in the Open Cup. Nate Jaqua after 2009 lost his effectiveness in MLS play, but still tallied 8 goals in the other compeitions. Sebastien Le Toux in 2009 struggled in league play, mostly as a right mid. In the Open Cup he played up top and in USOC and qualifying matches he tallied 5 goals.
It's easy to judge a goal scorer's prowess in these matches, but it isn't just these men who have been non-League stars. Caskey, Rose, Scott are all outside of an ideal XI in MLS play. They all have performed more than admirably in the other competitions. Those competitive minutes are keeping them fresh and in tune for quality performances in MLS play.
The Reserve League is one way to develop talent. But the Sounders have more options. They play about 25% more games a year due to their successes in the Open Cup and Champions League. Several players are taking those minutes and deserve recognition for the non-League stars they are.