Monday's practice saw Saturday's first-teamers in a small group playing keep away in a circle on one field while a group of reservists and a few guest players played on a short field. Fredy Montero, Roger Levesque and Leo Gonzalez were in that group and the keeper's were Josh Ford and Bryan Meredith. Who starts and who plays at Tuesday night's Reserve League game (7PM Starfire, free, donations accepted) will be intriguing.
Sigi Schmid talked to the media about Montero's performance on Saturday night,
I think he helped us. He connected some passes and was able to hold the ball up for us. I’m still trying to figure out how he committed a foul on that one play when [Logan] Pause fell down. Obviously he would’ve been in there on a breakaway which would’ve been a key moment in the game. He’s worked hard. He’s brought us a spark every time he steps off the bench. I think this was the first time he hasn’t gotten a goal or an assist when he came off the bench for us. He’s doing the things we’ve asked him to do and he has certainly helped us being able to hold up the ball.
In efforts to see how much the near constant lineup changes have affected the play of the midfield, particularly passing, I talked to Brad Evans. The veteran presence on the team has started as both a central midfielder and right mid (both wide and diamond) this season and is the player who may be most familiar with Sigi's philosophy and systems. Coach Schmid once said that due to a lack of training time together that some guys are just having to learn on the job in games. Evans addresses how that changed his approach in the last match.
It's different every game. It's just something that you have to adjust to, it's been a little bit difficult since we haven't scored many goals in the last eight games. That may have something to do with it. But for us it is just figuring out who is in there. When Erik [Friberg] in there with Ozzie they are going to sit more in the middle, but when Mauro is in there - that's the first time I've played with Mauro, maybe second time but first in the midfield - for me it was just the understanding and looking over my shoulder because he's going to drift outside so I have to tuck in. Then on defense I have to get back out because he's not going to defend the left back getting forward. Little things like that still have to get better for sure, but I don't think we did too bad on Saturday tactically. We stuck with our game plan and if we finish our chances early it is a completely different game. It is just a matter of finishing our chances.
The relationships between the midfield and forwards may be a bit different than the plan back in training camp, but these aren't 11 guys playing a pickup game. Most have been on the team together for some time, and though they haven't worked together as much as other groupings they are communicating and learning.
It is all about relationships, getting used to play with certain players. It hasn't been too consistent of a lineup, but in saying that we have created a number of chances. Now it is just a matter of putting them away. Every player is different. Nate plays different than Fredy. Fredy plays different than Fucito. Whoever it is up top, each has their strengths and weaknesses. That's part of being a pro is recognizing that. We've done an OK job with that, but I still think we can get better. I don't know if that involves sitting down and watching video of each player, working on technical and tactical things in practice, patterns, it's just more of an awareness thing I think, more than a physical thing.
The Sounders over the past few months have weathered these injuries fairly well in the standings, and in perception. They are 7th by PPM for the 2nd Wild Card slot (would face the Colorado Rapids) and are in the 2nd Tier in SBN's Power Rankings still. The offense has been lacking, as Evans points out. But there have been a few signs of effectiveness, and if Seattle can regress to the League mean of shots:goal things will be a lot better.
Sigi's quote sheet from practice
Sigi Schmid - Head Coach
(On the rivalry with Vancouver Whitecaps FC...) "It's the enthusiasm or the excitement that you realize you are playing somebody just down the road from you. [...] It definitely has a long history, a long tradition to it. The Whitecaps, when you look at the NASL history, have a lot of great players that have played and passed through that system, and coaches as well. Bob Lenarduzzi being involved as the president of the club is someone who extends all the way back to that history. It's a good thing. We haven't talked about it a lot yet with the players, haven't built them up as much. But for sure the guys who are from this area, who have played a lot with the Sounders, they have been through that Whitecaps-Sounders rivalry a bit and I know they are excited about it. We don't talk about it yet but it will get there."
(On the coaching change in Vancouver...) "Obviously they have played two games since they made that coaching change now so this will be their third game. Maybe you have a little better idea but when they did make the coaching change Tom Soehn didn't really have a chance to train with the team. The coaching change was made and then it was like two days later they were playing a game. This is going to be his first week to be able to train the team and really try to imprint how he wants to play upon the team. From that standpoint I'm sure it's something that he is looking forward to and, again, the enthusiasm of the players is something that we have got to combat."
(On Steve Zakuani attending today's training...) "It's great. I think it also does a lot for him. It's great to see him out here. OB [O'Brian White] has been out here a few days. I know Steve is a very, very proud person and he wanted to be able to walk out here and not crutch out here and so forth. So for him the moment he walked out here he was able to lift the one crutch and start walking a little bit. I think it gave him a good feeling. I think the guys obviously have a good feeling about it. It's that stage where you go through a lot of emotions suffering the injury that he suffered and I think he has spent a lot of time dealing with that. He has moved forward from that now and when you talk to him he is really eager to get forward and to get after it."
(On Sounders FC injuries...) "[Erik] Friberg was all right, got through training today fine. We won't play him in the reserve game tomorrow. The whole idea when I decided I wasn't going to start him in Chicago I figured it'd be best for him to rest that ankle and just get healthy on it. Alvaro [Fernandez] obviously didn't go in with Uruguay. He stayed here so today he did more and we will see how much we can throw him into training tomorrow, so he's a little more day-by-day."