Having to bounce back from a devastating loss against a very good Club America team, Seattle Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said that his team is ready to go for their MLS opening day match against Sporting KC on Sunday. "It's our second game inside of four days, so that makes it a little bit tougher. I thought the guys put in a strong effort down there against a good team. Obviously we were disappointed in the result and the travel is also extensive, it's a long travel day." Schmid said he wished that the team could have had a little more of a preseason to prepare not only for the two matches against Club America, but also for the start of the MLS season.
Regarding Sunday's opening day opponents, Schmid's main expressed concern was that they'll be much more rested than the Sounders. "They're a good team that was disappointed in their early exit last year. They were maybe three inches away from being able to advance into the next series. But they're a team that's got a pretty consistent nucleus down the middle of the field that they've kept together with Dwyer, Feilhaber, Espinoza, Besler. A lot of guys that have known each other for a good amount of time now."
Either way, Schmid said that his squad is ready for the season and has his full confidence not only for Sunday but for the entire season. "I think we have a good team with talented players, we have a good mix of young and old. Obviously the young guys need to step up when they get the moments. But I also believe very much in our veteran players and the workload and effort they bring."
As far as injuries go, Schmid was pretty optimistic that the squad returned from Mexico City relatively unscathed. "We've gotta see about Erik Friberg...he took a little bit of a knock to the head. So we'll have a better determination tomorrow. Outside of that, just bumps and bruises." Brad Evans and Clint Dempsey, who both appeared to take knocks against Club America, are fine and will be available Sunday. It should be noted that Evans was sporting two shiny staples in his skull after taking a particularly vicious hit on Wednesday night, but he said he feels great and is ready to go. Schmid also noted that Jordan Morris was "a bit under the weather down in Mexico, had a bit of a cold. That's why we took him out earlier." Morris will also be available on Sunday.
Brad Evans suggested that the defense as a whole wasn't at fault for Club America's goals, but rather a handful of key individual errors. "Chad and I don’t feel like we played bad defensively," Evans said. "We don’t feel like we gave away any really soft goals. I thought all their goals were very well-taken." Sigi Schmid said "We let a player who's very dangerous, Sambueza, get open too often that he was able to orchestrate the game and get all three assists. Maybe it's a missed assignment here and there, and that's what a preseason is supposed to do. Unfortunately we were in a real competition before most any other [MLS] teams were." Schmid lamented the lack of time that Evans, Marshall, and the rest of the starting back line had together during preseason.
Schmid refused to comment on his expectations for Jordan Morris' rookie season, likely hoping to stem the flow of hype and hyperbole that's come from media and fans all over the country. "It's a constant situation of growing and adapting. Coming out of the college environment, being able to train day in and day out and go through the grind is one of the more difficult adjustments he'll have to make." The departure of Obafemi Martins thrust Morris into the spotlight even more, and though Schmid knows that Morris can handle it, he admitted that the player is still getting used to his new teammates and vice versa. "We're still trying to learn everybody's strengths and weaknesses. There were times where Clint's going to drop back to find the ball, and in those moments Jordan has to become that second striker for us. There were times when he was still hanging wide instead, but that's more learning how to play from that position." Schmid noted that Morris had a number of solid runs on Wednesday and looks to be getting more used to the team and the position every time he plays.
Schmid expects another competitive Western Conference like 2015, which ended with razor-thin margins between many of the Western Conference playoff contenders. "From top to bottom, I think it's stronger than the East. It's definitely going to be a dogfight by the end, I don't think anyone is gonna run away with it."
Schmid downplayed the significance of Portland winning the MLS Cup last season, choosing rather to focus on the fact that it wasn't the Sounders. "Congratulations to them on winning it. The differences between winning and losing are very small, and you need them to bounce your way. What we've always wanted to be is a very consistent franchise from day one, and I think we've been that. But we do want to get that ultimate prize."
He does know what it can mean for the fans though, and slightly lamented the idea that Sounders fans will never hear the end of it from their Cascadia rivals. "I'm sure we'll hear about it. We heard a little bit about it during the preseason game and I'm sure we'll hear about it when we go down there to play. I'm sure they've got 18,000 chants about how they can chant about it and so forth. But at the end of the day, it's a new season and we'll see what comes at the end of it."