There weren't a lot of reporters at training on Saturday. In fact, it was basically a few of us from Sounder at Heart and, of course, the Seattle Times' Joshua Mayers. I chose to catch the Supporters' Summit. Dave talked to Chris Henderson (he'll have something later). That left Mayers the rare opportunity for a one-on-one with Seattle Sounders coach Sigi Schmid, who seemed a little more forthcoming than usual.
Specifically, he expressed some concerns over the lack of scoring from what Mayers dubbed "The Big Four" of Blaise Nkufo, Fredy Montero, Steve Zakuani and Alvaro Fernandez. In nine preseason matches, those players have combined for zero run-of-play goals, with Montero only scoring on a pair of penalties.
"Yeah, it's a concern. It's something they need to look at and something we need to look at as well. They want to get goals, we want them to get goals, so it's not a situation of people not wanting it to happen. I think we're around it, we're close to it, but that front four hasn't scored yet. They need to get on the scoreboard. If they're saving them all for the season, I'm OK with that. But it's a situation of us making sure that put some things away. We just have to continue to work."
In watching Friday's game, there were some causes for worry with all four players, but also reasons to believe this is just so much worry about nothing. Fernandez, of course, missed a couple of should-a-been goals, but also created some good opportunities. Nkufo looked strong on the ball, but also had some heavy touches. Montero had some nice moments, while also allowing himself to be pushed around more than we'd like. Zakuani seemed to have his way with Steve Purdy in the second half, but also seemed too easily forgotten for long stretches.
Of a bigger concern, at least to me, was the unbalanced shape the Sounders found themselves in throughout the match. For long stretches, it seemed that Montero and Nkufo were coming way too far back to both defend and receive the ball. Meanwhile, Zakuani and Fernandez rarely came further back than midfield, while Leo Gonzalez and James Riley were often overlapping. That left the wings very exposed to attacks, and the Timbers were able to exploit that on both goals.
None of these are things that are impossible to fix. I'd also rather have these problems crop up in preseason than when the games count. I also suppose it's good that Sigi is well aware of these issues.