Seattle Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid has been around the game for a long time, long enough to catch the minutiae and details that most people won't even notice upon close examination. For his team, Schmid stresses the importance of making strong decisions, because every single decision made on the pitch has repercussions that affect the outcome of a match.
"Soccer is a very different sport, it's the beauty of the sport." The free flowing aspect of the game keeps things new and fresh, which is one of the reasons it's so entertaining. Schmid says that the lack of timeouts mean that it's hard to change things on the fly, and that no two plays are ever alike. "There are some similarities, like corner kicks and free kicks, but when you look at the buildup, sometimes the defender is in a different position, teammates are in a different position. It's a very spontaneous sport, a lot more like basketball in that regard."
What Schmid looks for in his players is the ability to make those crucial decisions on the fly during the run of play, and sees the breakdown of that decision-making as one of the reasons Seattle fell to the Rapids last Saturday. "I thought, against Colorado, we had that capability but sometimes, very rarely, you go out there and you play and you seem overwhelmed for a second and you don't make decisions and one decision creates a reaction," he said, capping off the idea with an analogy, "if there's two things available on the table and I grab one, you'll grab the other. If I stand there and look at it and I don't make a decision and you're waiting for me to make a decision, we both stand there and do nothing."
Practically, Schmid said that he wants his team to be more aggressive in making decisions, and for the rest of the team to be vigilant in recognizing what every teammate on the pitch is doing. "Today in training we made sure that people stepped and other people reacted to that. The same thing with movement off the ball. It's about making that first decision."
Schmid made a few comments on the status of players' eligibility for Saturday's match against Columbus, but stressed that most decisions won't be made until later this week. Andreas Ivanschitz, who did some side activities and running instead of training with the rest of the team on Wednesday, "probably doesn't look good for the weekend, but we'll see how he feels after today. He was able to run today, which was a little bit earlier than we thought."
Clint Dempsey and Nelson Haedo Valdez trained fully on Wednesday, "we're still alternating their training, but they were able to train for the majority of training today." While nothing is certain yet, Valdez seems to be the unlikeliest to be available on Saturday. Schmid said that Valdez "is the kind of guy who wants to be 100% healthy and he's not the kind of guy who is gonna go out onto the field at 70% and say 'I'll give you 70%' He's either all in or he's not in. We have to wait for him to feel 100%."
Regarding Brad Evans' sending off against Colorado, Schmid defended his player but acknowledged that Evans should have known better. "Certainly there was a frustration level there in the call the referee was making, missing the tackle in midfield and then the offside call that wasn't made as well." Schmid said that every referee is different, that each has his own "dynamic" that players need to be able to read and adapt to before trying to approach the official. "When the referee says 'I don't have to explain anything to you,' it kind of builds a bridge [wall] between the players and the referee. That's just my opinion."
Regarding Seattle's match this weekend against the Columbus Crew, the first of a two home games in a row, Schmid acknowledged the quality that the MLS Cup finalists have. "We expect a tough game, because they're a good attacking team, they've got some good physical qualities on their team, they play an aggressive brand of soccer where they go out there, which also leaves them exposed at times." But above all, Schmid said that he and his team aren't afraid of anybody when playing at CenturyLink. "We're at home so it doesn't matter who we play. We need to make our home our fortress."