Here's the Sounders' report from their day in Arizona:
After Tuesday’s training game, Sounders FC returned to the training field for two-a-day practices on Wednesday. The morning session began with warm-ups and passing drills with fitness coach Dave Tenney. The team then transitioned to small keep away games of 6v6 plus one neutral player with the focus on defensive communication. Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Taylor Graham and Pat Noonan rotated as the neutral players. The group then played a game of 10v8 where the defensive team was shorthanded. The offensive side started with the ball at midfield and attacked the goal with a goalkeeper in net.
Head coach Sigi Schmid and assistant coach Brian Schmetzer spent much of 10v8 segment coaching the offense. The main focus was on creating different options on the offensive end as Schmid wanted to ensure that every player on the ball had four options to go to. Schmid and Schmetzer continually stopped play to teach the team about spacing, making runs and making smart decisions on and off the ball. On the defensive side, the players focused on communication and staying marked up with a man.
The afternoon session began with several games of 5v2 keep away as well as a long passing drill. The team then split into three groups. The outside backs worked on one end of the field while the center backs worked on the other. The third group featured the team’s attackers in a shooting and finishing drill. With Terry Boss or Bryan Meredith in net, the attackers took turns combining outside the box and shooting on goal. There were several variations to the drill, including long range shots (outside the 18-yard box) and one-touch shots.
Up NextSounders FC travels to Phoenix to take on the Columbus Crew in a training game on Thursday. The game begins at 10 a.m. PT at the Westside Soccer Complex and is open to the public with the cost of admission. SoundersFC.com will host a live blog at http://sndrs.com/9mcr.
Injury UpdateMidfielder Michael Seamon returned to Seattle for a medical examination. Forward Blaise Nkufo (calf) did work on the side field during the morning and afternoon sessions.
Quotes from Head Coach Sigi Schmid Teleconference(On making roster cuts…) “I told myself early on in my coaching career, I think my second year of coaching, I said, ‘If cutting players ever gets easy I’m going to quit,’ because I think one of the things I enjoy in coaching is the attachment that you have to players and the ability to interface and interact with guys who are trying to grow, trying to mature, trying to develop. That’s never an easy thing for me because in almost every player I see something and, at the end of the day, you have got to say no to some guys but there’s still something there that you see.”
(On the health of Sounders FC players…) “We actually think we are very good with injuries. Talking to Vancouver, talking to Salt Lake they have got a lot more guys out than we have. We have tried to be cautious with some people so in the case of [Brad] Evans, in the case of Leo Gonzalez yesterday it was more they could’ve played if we really needed them to play but we felt a day of rest for them would go well so that they can play full out the next game. So what we are trying to do is not push guys into a situation where it becomes a very serious injury. In the case of Michael Seamon’s situation his is something that we aren’t quite sure what it is and it’s not so much a soccer injury as it is a, like I said, we don’t know what it is. We wanted to send him back to Seattle now at this stage just to have him checked out there by the doctor so they can determine exactly what he has. And [Blaise] Nkufo had a calf injury, that’s the only I would say real injury that we’ve had so far.”
(On the reserves and young players…) “They’ve shown improvement but they are all still in the battle. Those guys are battling with the rookies and there’s a two-tier salary structure down there, too. So they are battling for are they going to get into those bottom four or are they going to get into apprentice salaries. Where are they going to fit into? So there’s definitely a big battle going on there. Certainly guys who have been here for a year or in some cases two like [Mike] Fucito there are certain things you can see in their game that they definitely understand and they learn. What you are looking for now in the rookies is how quickly did they adapt to the speed of play and you try to compare them almost to what these guys were a year ago and see if somebody maybe has the potential to develop faster or greater. So it’s more now like who can absorb information the quickest and put it to use.”
(On year three…) “"I think we're still, the Seattle team, we’re still younger than those other two teams. The core down the middle, the nucleus of the team is a little bit younger in terms of years in the league and even chronological age. So when you're looking at the Crew, even though [Chad] Marshall was a reasonably young player, he was already in his fourth year in the league, or fifth year in the league maybe, and Eddie Gaven was young but he was already in his sixth year in the league. Those guys were young players on the team, but they were veterans to the league already. In L.A. it was sort of the same thing. At that time we had the Ezra Hendrickson who had been in the league for a while, Mauricio Cienfuegos, Cobi Jones, there were a lot of guys who had been in the league for a while. So our age in terms of experience within the league is not as great as those two teams and our nucleus of players down the middle is younger than those two teams at the same stage."
(On expectations in year three…) "It makes it a little bit harder and certainly it maybe tempers it a little bit, but I still have a lot of confidence in this group. I have a lot of confidence in their abilities to now grow as a group and come together for that final push, which is what you need to get yourselves into an MLS Cup and so forth. That's something we're working on every day and demanding of people every day. But it is because of the lesser experience in the league it does make it a little bit tougher for sure."
(On Sounders FC newcomers…) "What happens with the rookies sometimes is on a given day somebody stands out and on another given day somebody else stands out. I would say probably at this stage the guy that has been pretty much the most consistent has probably been [Servando] Carrasco. He's had ups and downs like they all have but he's been more level in terms of his ups and downs. Both of the goalkeepers, [Josh] Ford and [Bryan] Meredith, have been fairly consistent as well. Those have probably been the three guys who have stood out for the most consistency at this stage."
(On the team spending time together…) "It's valuable to the whole team. It's valuable to the new guys because it immerses them into the team and the culture. It's valuable to the returning guys because you get to know the new guys. One of the things you're looking to is who fits in, et cetera, et cetera. Sometimes you even look around the evening as to who is hanging out with each other, who is playing cards, who is doing this or is a guy e very night sitting by himself in a corner just chatting to whomever on the computer and not interfacing with the guys. All those things are things you sort of look for. All of a sudden if you're a bubble player and you're also not really within the group then maybe the other bubble player gets the nod over you because he's better for the group as a whole. So when you get to selecting those fringe spots that sometimes makes the determination for you. Being at a place like this you see some of that stuff which you wouldn't see if you're trying to go through preseason in Seattle and everybody is going home each night."
(On Erik Friberg…) "He's doing well. Obviously fitness-wise he's still coming along because he had a long offseason as well. Their season is comparable to ours and their weather is maybe a little more extreme than ours in Sweden so he didn't have the availability to get going early nor was he sure maybe what to expect. He’s definitely done well. I'm very happy with his play. His fitness is coming along. Off the field I think the team already has three nicknames for him, so he seems to be fitting in fairly well off the field."
(On Friberg’s nicknames…) "I can't reveal those. You’ve got to get that out of somebody else."
(On his style of play…) "He's a simple but effective player. There's not a lot of complications to his game which is good because he have guys who do take a little more time on the ball like [Steve] Zakuani and [Fredy] Montero. He fits in well because he's simple but also technically good. He can keep the ball moving. He's got good vision to find that forward pass just like the ball he slipped in to O'Brian White. His energy level is good on the field. His timing of getting forward, getting into the box late, supporting the play is also very good. I think playing without [Brad] Evans the other day when he came in he was able to fill that role and it was much more comparable. If it's Evans and [Osvaldo] Alonso out there, if it's Friberg and Alonso from a playing-style standpoint there's not much difference. At some point as we go forward we'll look at him wide as well to say what he brings to the team in that position. He's definitely done well enough that he's knocking on the door and he's made it a competitive situation, which is great."
(On Friberg and Brad Evans playing together…) "I can see having them on the field at the same time. I don't know if a 4-3-3 suits us unless we're going to make Montero into a winger so I don’t see where a 4-3-3 suits us, again, unless we play Montero as an underneath striker and then we're turning Friberg or Evans into a winger. I don't think that's the best position for either three of those guys."
(On Roger Levesque playing at right back…) "We've had obviously Zach Scott play a little bit of right back for us. We pushed Evans back there a couple of times and we wanted to see what other options existed because Zach's also played for us at left back and might be comfortable on the left than he is on the right, per se. But we wanted to see what other options where there if something happened to James Riley that we didn't necessarily fall back into Evans dropping into right back that quickly. Also Roger's been a guy that we've moved around a bit. With the emergence a little bit of [Mike] Fucito and with the addition of O'Brian White, with Jaqua hopefully getting healthy enough to play within a month or so it's going to be pretty tough sledding and tough competition up front. We wanted to see if he could give us some versatility by being able to play right back and he's got a great engine. He can get up and down the field. Already in the few games he's played there he's made a couple of good runs forward, hit a great cross for the one goal when we played an intrasquad game. That was tremendous and he's a pretty quick learner. He's a bright kid so he's learning the nuances of defending reasonably quickly, so for me right now it's probably been a pretty positive experiment."
(On being two players deep at every position…) "It’s been good. Obviously with the number of players you want to be two deep everywhere. You always want to put your best 11 players on the field, but if you can resolve your problems in the short term by making a one-on-one switch that's a lot better than having to make three moves to solve a problem. Now if somebody's out for a longer term than you're going to say, 'OK, well let's maybe slide this guy here and push this guy in here.' But if you have a guy get injured in a game or have a guy miss a game, if you could just take out that one piece and plug in another piece it makes it a lot easier on the rest of your team."
(On Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Nate Jaqua…) "Jhon’s doing well. Obviously he's training and has played games for us already. He said he felt good today after playing yesterday and I think he ended up playing like 47 minutes yesterday. We were happy with that. He's coming along great. Nate we left in Seattle because we figured his ability to return would be enhanced by just having some good 1-on-1 work and all the reports we've got are positive. We see Nate being able to train with us or do stuff out on the field or at least get through warm-ups with the team and join us for Florida and progress now in a team setting."
(On the league as a whole…) "It's still a somewhat realistic window. The league has certainly improved and gotten better. I think as much so on the team management side as anywhere else. I think early on in the league sometimes teams struggled a little bit longer because whether it was on the technical director side or the coaching side there just wasn't enough planning maybe or enough knowledge to move it forward quickly. I think now when you look around the league most teams are pretty solid at least in one of two of those positions if not both of those positions and as a result the ability to use your allocation money wisely and figure out to get the team moving forward I think everybody has got somebody in their organization that has figured that out to help the team do that. A three-year ability to come back, especially if you're out of the playoff hunt, is definitely possible. I still think what we've been able to do in Seattle and hopefully we'll be able to push our three years and get as far as we can this year, but being able to stay at the top or near the top for those three years right from the get go I think is pretty amazing."
(On not knowing the schedule yet…) "It doesn’t change. We know when our opening game is and that's the most important thing to know as we are going through preseason here and planning. So that doesn't affect anything. Our schedule should be out tomorrow, I think, and near term that doesn't affect anything as well. Same thing with the playoff format. That doesn't really affect anything in terms of what we're doing right now. That becomes more of a factor obviously as we get into the season and we start playing games."
(On trimming down the roster…) "Probably in between Arizona and Florida there will be the same thing as happened after the first week here where there will be some elimination of players. We'll be scaling down again. I couldn't tell you if that's one or four or five. We’re going to let it be a very natural process of, 'OK, these are the guys we think have fallen behind a little bit for one reason or another,' and just let it go that way. Overall I feel very fortunate to have the difficult decisions that are ahead of us as a coaching staff because the guys have made it tough for us and have played well for the most part. Good players make you look a good coach. It’s never good coaches turn bad players into good players. Good players make a coach look good."(On upcoming roster cuts…) "No, we’ll go through with this group that we have got right now will go through the end of the week."
Throw-insOwner Joe Roth, Owner/General Manager Adrian Hanauer and Technical Director Chris Henderson were on hand at today’s training sessions. Henderson participated in the first half of the morning session…Several players stayed after lunch to watch France beat Brazil, 1-0, in an international friendly…Steve Zakuani celebrated his birthday at dinner as the team sang Happy Birthday.