As the Seattle Sounders head to the East Coast this weekend for their two-match road trip, head coach Sigi Schmid previewed the team's first match against the New England Revolution. He praised new signing Kei Kamara, a player that he had originally drafted when he was the manager of the Columbus Crew. "Big addition for their team in Kei Kamara, so as soon as they get that understanding down between him and Lee Nguyen."
Schmid recognized the Revolution's woes this season, and noted a few potential "question marks, like is Gershon Koffie going to play? How are they going to replace Watson at the back? Things like that." He praised New England's speed too, noting that they have solid, quick options to choose from when attacking. "They've got different options, they've got Kelyn Rowe who can play outside or he might play inside in the midfield. They've got Agudelo, Fagundez, on the left side Tierney likes to really get forward."
As for the Sounders themselves, Schmid confirmed on Wednesday what was a "maybe" on Tuesday: Chad Marshall is "good" and set to make the trip. The defender trained on Wednesday and seemed to participate in most things, though he was designated "non-contact" during game-situation exercises. Schmid said that, for Marshall, "everything was good from yesterday, he progressed through everything today so he's full in." As far as Oalex Anderson's hamstring strain goes, Schmid said that there isn't a concrete timeline, but he expects the player to be out for 3-4 weeks.
The Sounders will be missing Clint Dempsey, Nelson Haedo Valdez, and Oalex Anderson for this trip, but Schmid has faith in his squad's depth. "We've got Morris, we've got Gomez, Ivanschitz has played on the wing for us as well," he said, "Kovar has played as a winger as well." The absence of Anderson (who, by my estimate, would have started at least one of the two matches) paves the way for young striker Darwin Jones to travel with the team, who signed a HomeGrown player contract in 2015 but has yet to make a splash with the first team.
Schmid has maintained all season that he's happy with the way his team is playing, but recognizes that possession and chances created absolutely must turn into goals if the Sounders hope to get anywhere in 2016. "As a team we like the way we're playing, we like our ability to hold onto the ball, we like the possession we're getting. We like how we're getting the ball forward, and it's just a matter now of finishing those final opportunities." Schmid maintains that if his team had finished "some of those looks" in Saturday's home contest against the Rapids, "it would have been a different game."
It's a long season, and Schmid stressed that while he's disappointed in the team's progress, things can vastly change by the time the playoffs come around. "Once you're in the playoffs, there's plenty of evidence in the history of MLS that you don't have to be Supporters' Shield winners to win the MLS Cup." Schmid wants to turn this Sounders road trip into a one-two punch against the Eastern Conference, with the plan of getting his team into a consistent goalscoring form, while snatching up 6 points at the same time. "We've done alright against Eastern teams, our record has been pretty good so far. So we've got to continue to do that and do well on the road now."
Despite the murmurs of dissent in some quarters, Schmid is grateful for the fans' belief and hopes that they continue to put faith in the team even when the rest of the league expects them to fail. "I think if you polled our fans, I think our fans are fantastic and they believe in us and they support us, and we want to go out on the road and show that that support and that belief is worthwhile." Returning to Seattle with 6 points next week would probably go a long way towards making that happen.