Coach Sigi Schmid took part in a media conference call this morning. I though some of the most interesting stuff were his updates on what's new: progress of rookies, new veterans who might crack the first 11, and even older players being tried at new positions.
Here's what Schmid had to say: On today's 11 v 11 game) “Today we just went 11 v 11. We divided up into three teams and had each team play basically 40 minutes. We did 20-minute periods with the guys. It was the first time we have really gone 11 v 11. We have done different things. We had basically a 6 v 6 tournament early in the week and we played 8 v 8, 9 v 9. We’ve played big numbers as well but today we wanted to go 11 v 11 and it was good.”
On the goal of the 11 v 11 game) “Well, we are still evaluating some players as well. So the aim was to continue that evaluation because some guys do better in small games and some guys do better in big games. At the end of the day, you have got to be able to play in the big game in order to have an impact. And then the other thing for us was to be able to experiment a little bit, look at some players that we are evaluating and even some returning guys at different positions to see exactly what fills our needs and what takes care of holes that we might have. That was really the aim of today. It wasn’t like there was a fitness aim or a tactical aim. I mean, the tactical aim for us is the same every day at practice in terms of what we want them to accomplish in terms of the way we want them to play. That’s omnipresent but the rest of it is all about playing 11 v 11.”On the rookies) “They are doing well. In fact, we just spoke a little bit at lunch about the game today and I said to the group, ‘You guys are making it very hard for the coaches. It’s very competitive and our decisions are going to be very difficult.’ In talking to some of the older players, usually when you talk to them it’s always like, ‘Well, this guy or this guy or this guy aren’t at the level coach,’ but when we talk to the older players, they’re saying, ‘No, no, practice is good no matter who we are combined with everybody can play.’ So I think that speaks to the depth of it. So it’s going to make it difficult for us in terms of making those choices. With time, everybody sort of weeds themselves out and some are going to be decisions based upon what we think of his ability and then it might come down to some final decisions just being positional and maybe even cap-related.”
On the preseason invitees who are no longer training with the team) “We don’t see them playing or being a part of our squad for this year. But just like probably a good example is Lamar Neagle who didn’t make our squad last year and then went to Charleston, we kept an eye on him and now he is back here really pushing. If he is going to be there at the end of the day I’m not sure but it’s going to be really close. It’s going to be the same thing with some of the guys that we moved on from. There’re guys that we are going to continue to monitor and continue to observe and see how they are doing. A couple were really young players and really haven’t played outside of their age group, per se. So they need that opportunity and as we monitor them and watch them if they end up going to a team that we have a relationship with that coach it makes it a little easier to monitor them.”On training game versus Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Friday) “Well, for us it’s going to be a continuation of what we did today. Today when we put together the three teams we really wanted to mix the teams up. We didn’t want to make it first team and second team in our minds or anything like that right now. There were certain combinations of players we wanted to put on the field together. We wanted to put certain forward combinations together. We wanted to put a certain central defensive pairing or midfield pairing together but we really didn’t want to put what people would perceive as a first 11 or second 11. Against Vancouver it’s going to be more of the same. We will probably mix the team a little bit differently but it’s probably still going to be a mix of players. It’s not going to be something, again, where it’s going to be first, second or third team. It’s going to be a mix of players that allows us to see which combinations work together, what combination sort of works on this side of the field or in the middle of the field, which forward pairing works together. Those are things we will continue to experiment and flop around with and Friday gives us another chance to do that.”On experimenting with positions) “What we are trying to do is, an example is Tyson Wahl who has played a lot at left back for us maybe more so in the past year than playing in the middle of the back. With Taylor Graham’s injury we have probably played Tyson a little more in the middle of the back. We want to give him more of a look there because we want to look at Danny Earls as a left back, so that’s been one situation. Zach Scott we’ve also played maybe a little more in the back than at outside back. Today we actually threw Roger Levesque in at right back. We wanted to see how that would look. I know he is a pretty versatile player and he’s played different places and we wanted to look at him at right back. It wasn’t an easy 20 minutes for him since he got matched up with Steve Zakuani but it was good because we learned a lot from seeing that.”
On newcomers having a chance to make the starting XI) “There’s certainly the experienced newcomers, if I could classify them that way. O’Brian White and Erik Friberg are certainly making claims for, ‘Hey, you’ve got to pay attention here coach. I think I can play.’ So I think those guys are certainly pushing. When you’re looking at the rookies or some of the trialists beyond that I think they are pushing more to make the team than the starting 11. But guys who were reserves last year, the [Mike] Fucitos and so forth are also certainly knocking on the door.”
On the status of the players) “Everybody’s status is the same. Everybody right now is fighting for a spot on the team. Obviously there’re certain guys that because of the amount of time that they have played over the last season especially you would probably say, ‘OK, they are a little more secure than others.’ But I think anybody who is more in a reserve role from last year and the new guys are all in the same boat. They are all competing for a spot. It’s not like this guy is competing more so than that guy. We have a very unique situation in Seattle in that we have some experienced veteran players like Roger [Levesque] and Zach [Scott] and Taylor Graham and others guys who have got some experience and have some knowledge and who don’t necessarily break the salary cap bank. A lot of times when you have players who have been in MLS for eight or nine years they end up being the guys who lose out because for cap reasons you’ve got to bring in a younger guy because you have got to free up some money. But in this particular case they haven’t been in MLS that long so as a result their salaries are not in a range yet where that becomes a consideration when you keep them or not. Everybody I think is in the same battle if you didn’t play a ton of minutes last year.”
On Kerry Baptiste) “Again, he is somebody that Chris [Henderson] and Kurt [Schmid] sort of came across and uncovered and the feeling was it would be good to bring him in and have a look at him. He’s got a ton of speed. He’s very, very quick. He scored a lot of goals back home. First couple of days I think he has been getting his feet wet and used to what’s going on. Today was probably unusually, bitterly cold for him. But he’s done all right. It’s too early to make a final analysis but he is a forward who plays high, likes to play off the shoulder of the left defender and he’s got good speed and quickness.”
On next set of roster cuts) “We will probably reduce it some. I can’t tell you how many at this juncture because what we are trying to do is what we think are natural decisions or decisions that make sense to cut it here. We’re not trying to let somebody go when we’re still not 100% sure. So what we are trying to do is let people go when we are pretty convinced that, ‘No, I don’t think he’s really going to help us.’ If somebody still has, ‘Maybe he might, we don’t know,’ we will probably take him to Florida with us and give him that final option because coming back from Florida is when we need to be cut down. So at this stage, yes, we will cut some people at the end of this trip before we go to Florida but I couldn’t tell you whether that’s going to one or six, that’s something we will determine.”