At this point in the NASL Spring Season Jimmy Ockford is just a regular member of the 18, but has yet to see the pitch in a competitive match. According to New York Cosmos Head Coach Giovanni Savarese that should change tonight.
"Most likely he will have the opportunity to play (on Wednesday)," the Cosmos Coach told Sounder at Heart on Tuesday. "Sometimes he's been close to getting on the field because we feel very confident in him. (Wednesday) will be most likely his first competitive match with us in the United States. We are very content and grateful with the Seattle Sounders organization for allowing us to have a player like Ockford with us this year."
The Cosmos backline has two players that are familiar to those that follow MLS - Hunter Freeman and Carlos Mendes. They also have Brazilian Roversio. It's a competitive environment for minutes. One in which his coach says that Ockford is regularly just on the outside of being in the XI. But that much talent also means he's learning from seasoned veterans.
"We feel very confident that he's learning from some good players that we have, with strong experiences. Every day in practice he's able to bring a lot of good things with him to grow as a player, but even more so I think that the way we play and what we ask the defenders to do to be confident with the ball, to play from the back," Savarese said. "I think that allows him to develop his skills successfully and build up his confidence to be ready for his experience with Seattle when he has to go back."
Ockford is on loan through the season, though Seattle could recall him if necessary. But, at this time, he's the third centerback on good NASL side. The defender is learning quite a bit about how to play as a pro.
"He's been looking very well since he came to us in preseason" Savarese said. "In Dubai he did very, very well. He played very often and was able to also be successful in contributing offensively scoring a few goals in preseason. He's been part of the 18 on a constant basis and is doing very, very well in practices.
"He combines different things. He's a very strong defender. He's a defender that has confidence in the back. He's a player that's not afraid to play with the ball. He's getting better through training with us. He's very strong with balls that come in the air. There's a lot of good things that a good centerback should have. He's quick and he's able to get good spaces," his coach explained his skill set. "You can see during the games that he learns through the game and his spaces will always be well covered."
In Open Cup play tonight Ockford will need to apply those skills. The Cosmos are not looking for him to repeat his performance in the Dubai preseason when he scored two goals, they just want him to help keep a clean sheet and control his space. Any threat in the attack is a bonus.
Jimmy's loan is also an example of how Seattle can work with other clubs in the US system to develop longer term projects and give them experience in a pro environment. Making those adjustments can be daunting, but Coach Savarese likes what he sees from Ockford as a man, not just as a defender.
"One is that he's not just a player with a lot of potential. He's a great human being that will do very well in any locker room. He's definitely going to contribute in a good way for the Seattle Sounders. "
Loans like this may be less necessary with an owned USL PRO team next year, it is still a path that the Cosmos enjoy having in partnership with Seattle.
"I think that for the New York Cosmos, we value very much the Seattle Sounders organization and the good people involved there," Savarese said. "We will always keep a very good relationship with them because we respect very much what you guys are doing there. It's very far away watching from New York, but I think that is a close relationship that we'll have."