A brisk 50 degrees and sunny, Tuesday morning in Tucson was begging for some sweet Sounder action. When I arrived at Kino, there was a feeling of excitement in the air. Vendors appeared to be setting up their tents in preparation for the upcoming Desert Diamond Cup, and the traditional entrance to the complex was closed to the public. Never the less, I made my way around to the rear of the facility where I channeled my inner Solid Snake and was able to gain access to the training pitch. My Sounder's scarf no doubt assisted in my concealment from prying eyes. :-)
This morning's session wasn't unlike Monday's, as it started out with some light calisthenics to warm the body, followed by some 5v2. After the 5v2, the team switched to a much more competitive and energetic 6v6 with two goals for each team. The unique aspect about the 6v6 was there were two additional players on the field that always were on the offensive side of the ball (8v6). From my perspective, I was only able to watch one of the two games, and luckily for me, the two responsible for playing on offense were Ozzie and unsigned rookie Fabio Pereira (more on him below). The 6v6 ran for about 30 minutes before switching to a 10v5. This 10v5, which consisted of more first team players, looked to be in preparation for the preseason match tomorrow against San Jose. On the other side of the field, the trialists, along with Pappa, and Barrett were working on a similar short-sided drill. As much as I wanted to watch the first team 10v5, I decided to watch the trialists to get an idea of the possible roster moves at the end of camp. The final drills of the session were finishing/shooting.
As I sit here and write this, reflecting on the day, I'm thankful not to be in the position of Adrian and the front office (FO). The available roster spots appear to be extremely limited, the talent level high, and the decisions will likely be extremely difficult. As you will see from my below comments on the trialists, there is a lot to like, and it really does come down to how the FO is going to make their decision. Are they looking to go younger, bigger, more athletic, more technical, etc. Regardless, I am positive about what I saw today, and fully expect that with the return of Brad Evans and DeAndre Yedlin, the team will really come together. And don't think I forgot about Clint. I want him here, and I want him here now. He is dying on the vine out there at Fulham, and I cannot help but think his time there is more harmful to his form.
As always, my thoughts/finding/impressions are in no particular form, relation, etc. If you have questions, comments, concerns, alibis, please comment below or reach out to me on twitter @soccerdisciple. Thanks!
Fabio Pereira: As mentioned above, I watched him for about 30 minutes in the 6v6 drill prior to him moving on to the short-sided game with the other trialists. During the 6v6, I appreciated his willingness to play in the central part of the field, and his ability to take the constructive criticism of the coaches to get more involved offensively, and pull the strings. After those words of motivation, he scored 3 goals. He paired relatively well with Ozzie, pushed forward and wasn't afraid to make positive forward passes. During the short-side, I swear I was watching Alvaro Fernandez out there. The way Fabio moves his body, changes direction, plays the ball off his feet, is eerily similar to Flaco. I like what I saw today, and want to see more of him.
Michael Azira: So I made it a goal to watch as much of Michael as possible today. During the 6v6 he was in the back defending along with Zach Scott. Michael was vocal, communicating well with Scott, but his position on the field didn't lend to allowing me to get a good feel for what he can do in the central midfield. During the 10v5, he didn't do anything to stand out, and wow. It was a pretty tame day for him. I will continue to watch him during the week.
Kevin Parsemain: Ahh, the kid from Martinique. Unfortunately during the 6v6, he was on the other side of the field, so I wasn't able to assess him during that specific drill. During the short-sided game, he was active, netting a few goals, and looking very quick. The coaching staff appeared to be pleased with his play during the games. During the finishing drills near the end of the session, he did well to put the ball in the net. More to come on Parsemain.
Miguel Gonzalez: This kid is a little terror. That's the best way to describe him. In the 6v6 he did well to distribute and communicate with his teammates, attempting a nice header on goal that just went over the compact goal. During the short-sided games he had a great finish from a tight angle on the right flank. It will be interesting to see if he remains with the team or not. I would certainly expect him to be a fan favorite if he does. He's not afraid to "try shit."
Dzenan Catic: I was high on him yesterday, and a bit less today. Unable to assess during the 6v6, I only could watch him during the short-sided games, where he didn't do a ton to wow, or be memorable. I still want to see him in a full match where the space and speed exists to get a better handle on his abilities.
Stefano Rijssel: I simply need more time to watch him. Did decently in the finishing drills, but I honestly can't remember anything exciting from the short-sided games.
Tarek Morad: Same as Rijssel. I'll do my best to get more on Morad later this week.
Aaron Kovar: Wasn't able to see a lot, but during the finishing drills, I was impressed with his accuracy and the cleanliness of his strikes. I wouldn't be surprised if he has a Kelyn Rowe type breakout season this year.
Marco Pappa: Marco put the fear of God in the soccer ball today. As a native Washingtonian, I remember the days of Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, and more specifically, Kemp's ridiculous dunks. The types of dunks that would lift you out of your seat, and cover your mouth because of what you just witnessed. Pappa did that three times today. Three. You read that right. During the short-sided games the first came from about 20-22 yards out on the right flank with his left foot. Upper 90 be damned, he killed it. The second, which was arguably much more violent, was about 18 yards out at the top of the box. Given a few yards too much space, he hit the ball so hard, I swear I heard it scream. The keeper frozen, did nothing to stop it. It was glorious. The third, and truly the most technical, was a chip with his off foot from practically at the end line, and such an acute angle, it made Clint Dempsey's lone goal last year look like a walk in the park. It was so good that Coach Schmetzer uttered something along the lines of "Ohhhh Pappa..." I had ZERO doubt that once he gets in front of 40k fans screaming "Pappa, Pappa, Pappa," he is going to unleash some killer golazos. Oh and he is also really great with the ball at this feet.
Obafemi Martins: Two wonderful goals today; one by backheel, the other a volley. I have no doubt he will be ready to roll this year as long as he stays healthy. A full season and we will see no less than 15 goals.
David Estrada: Like Caskey above, looked really strong. The guy is so damn fit, plays the ball well in to open spaces, and gives 110% (yup, I totally went there). He still has issues in tight spaces in the box, but I expect him to certainly be a Sounder.
For related photos head over to my personal blog.