Sounders’ positive chemistry comes from new formula

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.comFebruary 13, 2014 

RENTON — Midfielder Brad Evans got his first significant work with the new-look 2014 Seattle Sounders on Wednesday, and he noticed an area of improvement.

“To be honest with you, it’s a better locker room right now than it was in the past,” Evans said after training at the Seattle Seahawks’ indoor practice facility. “That doesn’t always guarantee results, but it might push us through those tough times throughout the season.”

The Sounders are in their third week of training after an offseason that subtracted such high-profile players as Eddie Johnson, Michael Gspurning, Mauro Rosales, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Steve Zakuani, while adding players such as Marco Pappa, Kenny Cooper, Stefan Frei, Chad Barrett and Tristan Bowen.

“To be honest, it was time,” Evans said. “Every couple of years, a team is always going to have to go through changes to grow. You get a certain amount of time with a certain group of players, and if you don’t win, you’ve got to change it. ... First impressions are it’s a good group of guys and a bunch of hard workers.”

Evans and defender DeAndre Yedlin are late in sharing the pitch with some of their new teammates because they had been away with the U.S. national team — including a first senior-team appearance for Yedlin.

“It’s something that I’ve always dreamed of: to play with the national team, to finally get that experience,” he said. “And now it’s just pushing for more caps, and hopefully a World Cup.”

Evans and Yedlin don’t know if they will be part of the team that USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann takes this summer to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said he has spoken to Klinsmann about his intentions for the two players, but Schmid said it wasn’t up to him to reveal what was said.

While Schmid was pleased about the return of two players expected to be among his usual starting 11, he also cautioned that the transition from national team to club team is not always seamless.

“I call it ‘national team hangover,’ ” Schmid said. “ ... It’s sort of like the chest puffs out a little bit. The game, tactically, is faster at the national team level, but it’s also on a certain aspect a little bit slower because, technically, all of the players are a little better, so possession is better. (They have) to get back into the rhythm of what you’re doing with your club team.”

Even with Evans and Yedlin back, the Sounders still don’t have a complete team. Starting left back Leo Gonzalez (groin) remains limited in training, and designated player Clint Dempsey, who suffered a calf injury late last year, is on loan to Fulham of the English Premier League through the end of the month.

“He feels he’s definitely getting there fitness-wise, and so he wanted to be sharp when he gets back to here,” Schmid said. “But (because Fulham is) in a relegation battle, it’s very emotionally taxing.”

ADDED TIME

Pappa has been issued jersey No. 10, often reserved for the best player on the club or the key playmaker. “Pressure, eh?” he said. “Normally I wear No. 16, but (David) Estrada is wearing it now. They give me No. 10, and No. 10 has special responsibilities on the field, but I’m still just a part of (the team) with all the other players.” ... The club has announced plans to celebrate the 40th anniversary season of Sounders soccer, which began with the 1974 North American Soccer League team. Sounders FC will wear a special anniversary patch during eight games this season, including the opener March 8, when Sporting Kansas City visits CenturyLink Field.

Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer @donruiztnt

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