Outside of Fredy Montero getting another long run of 75% or more of available minutes at one forward position the Seattle Sounders FC have no clear favorite as to which of their remaining three forwards will get the most playing time. The declined options of Nate Jaqua and Pat Noonan do open minutes for the remaining three most used forward. Each of Mike Fucito, Sammy Ochoa and O'Brian White are currently 25. They offer different combinations of speed, size, strength, fitness and partnership with Montero. Prior to the Real Salt Lake playoff series Sigi Schmid said this about the differences between Fucito and Ochoa:
They each offer different things. Obviously, Fucito is a tough character who likes to bounce off of people. He's got the speed. He's dangerous, got a quick release on his shot. He's got a good shot. He's got a shot from distance. He's got power. He's left footed.
Sammy is a better hold-up player, who likes to back into people as a target. He connects passes a little better and around the goal he likes to put things on frame. If you look at the things he's done not just the goals ... he's been around the goal.
With White still recovering, his ability to enter the competition for time is unknowable, but according to Fucito "we really need O'Brian back to his early season form." Even with the minutes of Jaqua and Noonan inserted into the competition, Seattle's 25-year-old forward trio know that the competition will be tight. It will require them to improve.
During a Wednesday phone conversation with Fucito he noted, "this puts a bit more pressure on me, and Sammy and O'Brian to improve." Each have questions that need to be answered. For White it is health, for Ochoa fitness, for Fucito it is finishing in MLS play. In league play Fucito had a scoring percentage of 8.33%, while in non-league games it was 18.18%. Asked if there was a shot, moment or game he'd like to have back he responded;
I could come up with a couple - a post here, a post there, a block, a save. There were too many times when they didn't go in. But that's in the past now. I know that I need to keep working on the little things and get better for next year.
If there's one thing all of the forwards want it's to score more often. It is an element of the team that isn't satisfied with their own offensive prowess. It is a team that wants to score even more often than their league leading 2011 stats show.
At the end-of-season media availability, Ochoa told Sounder at Heart, "I don't really want an off-season. I've been off for some time. I'm going to get some work in, maybe get a couple days off, but I'm not looking forward to being off... I want to stay here and stay fit."
Fucito like Ochoa noted that he will be staying in Seattle for a majority of the off-season. Similar to last year's off-season it will not be a time to relax, but a time to work with Dave Tenney. Fucito credits that work for having a healthier season in 2011, while this year's focus will be on maintaining health while getting stronger. Yes, he said getting stronger.
When asked about personal goals for 2012 Fucito gave a response that mixes the good of the team with his own desires. "I'd like to score more goals, but if the teams winning and I don't score that's OK too. I just think that if I'm scoring more the team will win more games."
When the Sounder at Heart staff was asked to help rank the forwards for an off-season depth chart the first three responses had a different order after Montero. With a little competition sprinkled in from players used primarily as midfielders this past season (Neagle, Levesque, Estrada, others?), as well as unknown draft picks or signings coming in there could be about 5,500 minutes up for grabs from a group of men in their personal peaks ages.
If competition in training pushes stronger performances in competitive games the short rotation at forward should see all three with breakout years. The team is no longer tied to a big/small philosophy, but instead can now make choices based on tactical needs, fitness and the ever nebulous "form."