Repeat after me: Wins and losses are not important in preseason. This is not the time to win games, although many will find that exciting. Losses should not fuel the fire for a player to do better. This is the time to test the roster; to figure out who deserves those final spots; to figure out the First XI and the regular 18. Tonight's Seattle Sounders v New England Revolution match (4 PM Pacific, streaming here via MLSSoccer.com) in the Desert Diamond Cup is the first of a four match mini-tourney. There is even a trophy.
But the more important things to watch for will be that First XI. Who starts in place of the missing Montero? Who is partnered with Hurtado at centerback? Which of the 75 starting caliber mids gets the call? And later, in the second half how do the trialists and those competing for those five open spots perform?
Sigi Schmid told SoundersFC.com those questions are the essence of the Desert Diamond Cup.
"Who are we going to play up front next to Eddie?" Schmid said. "Right now, in the short term, who we’re going to play in the back, next to Kennedy - those are some of the immediate questions that we’ve got to answer in the next two weeks and see where we’re at when we start the season."
And via the team press release;
“It’s to keep possession of the ball, hold onto it and make sure we see our share of the ball and get our cohesion down. […] We always look for a result. We always want to win even if it’s a practice game so we are always looking for a result. We want to push some guys physically so we want to get them into the 60-70 minute range, so we want to get that part of it done. We still need to look at some players and make some decisions so we are trying to do that as well. […] Right now the emphasis is on getting the group cohesively ready but they can’t go 90 minutes so those last 30 minutes are for people to come up and show what they can do.”
The Revolution are facing similar questions. In fact most MLS teams are now in that time of fine tuning more than fitness. According to Steve over at www.TheBentMusket.com when asked what the goal of today's match is he responded;
The honest answer is that I really don't know. The first part of preseason down in Casa Grande was about fitness and team chemistry. This part of preseason is going to be about winning jobs and implementing the tactics, the game plans, and the formations that will be used all season. I would expect that regardless of who he plays in either half, Jay will make extra effort to integrate Jerry Bengtson and Chad Barrett, so they can probably be expected to get a lot of time. Bengtson has been with Honduras through all of preseason, while Barrett was only just signed. Both will probably be significant contributors to the first team (or at least the matchday 18) for 2013.
Tonight is not a matter about setting up a run for a preseason cup. Tonight is about tuning the engine and guiding the choices that will shape 2013.