TUKWILA, Wash. — Coming off an important 2-0 win at home over the Vancouver Whitecaps, there seems to be a change in the winds in Seattle helping this Sounders team add points and slowly change their course to begin moving up the MLS standings.
Over the last few weeks alone there has been an abundance of intensity and vigorous work surrounding the training field, initially ignited by the arrival Designated Player Raul Ruidiaz. But now, after the Rave Green was able to get three points with several big names on the bench, it is obvious the level of competition goes far beyond one player. “Healthy competition” can be a cliché easily used - and most times with little merit - particularly for players with household names who are regularly considered indisputable starters. This does not seem to be the case, at Starfire Complex, where even Panamanian hero Roman Torres understands he’s fighting for minutes.
“I don’t have anything guaranteed, I have to earn my spot on the field and let the coach make those type of decisions,” said Torres smiling as he seemed to welcome the internal competition. “I just have to get out here and do my job, because I actually think it’s important to have healthy competition on the training field. The truth is that Kim has been playing well, he has been working [on the field] and the coach will make the final call.”
Kim Kee-Hee has been a good fit alongside Chad Marshall in Torres’ absence: his speed, aggressiveness and ability to defend one-on-one in space have at least put Kim in the conversation to stay as the starting CB, although I strongly believe El Canalero will soon regain his starting role.
Torres was on the bench on Saturday as he was still healing from a left ankle sprain, although he was able to get his first full week of practice without any limitation and had a positive outlook on his status.
“I have been working very well, I was able to complete my recuperation, and, thank God, I’m now back to training with the group,” Torres said. “Now is all in the coach’s hands, I will be ready to go awaiting his decision, and, God willing, I will be able to be with my team to take part in the next game.”
Brian Schmetzer has been consistent in his statements about the coaching staff having more options now and incorporating players by rotating them when needed, but he emphasized the importance of players performing in training and taking advantage of their opportunities, Brian went as far as saying, “competition is good, it drives the group and if Roman is better then he plays; if Kim is better than he plays.”
Nonetheless, taking into consideration what Roman has been able to accomplish with this club, his experience, poise on the ball when distributing from the back and his field awareness to anticipate crosses, I believe he should have the edge. There is also a different attitude radiating from El Mazinger since coming from a historic World Cup appearance, playing 236 minutes in three matches and going head to head against some of the best players in the world. He is determined to harness his current soccer high of reaching the most important moment in his career and using it to win for this team. “If there is something that I could pass to the team from my experience playing in the most important competition in soccer against top talent, it is the ability to play as a collective for a common goal,” Torres said. “Now, my mind is solely in this team; to start adding points and focus on making the playoffs.”
Without a doubt, having three talented center backs to choose from is a good problem to have. Depth can be key for a team that, although it has found some momentum, is still in 10th place in the Western Conference. With three games in seven days there will be plenty of chances to rotate the back line or even explore other formations, leaving it up to the players to perform and conquer, all for the benefit of the team.