Sounders Insider

Ezra Hendrickson talks Sounders Reserves and looks ahead to entry into USL Pro

Here is some of what reserves coach and Sounders assistant Ezra Hendrickson had to say today:

On experienced players such as Kenny Cooper, Chad Barrett and Marco Pappa playing on the reserves: It speaks to the depth of our team. It speaks to what we were able to do in the offseason to go out and make our team stronger from top to bottom. That’s something we felt hurt us last year, especially at the end of the season, when we had some injuries or guys were out of form we couldn’t really make the necessary changes. Not enough guys challenged the starters is something that we felt as a whole, so we went out and made the team stronger. We got proven MLS veterans along with some younger players, but mainly the Coopers and the Barretts and the Pappas that we thought in case there are injuries or in case guys get out of form – which happens over the course of a year – we can have guy on the bench that we can feel comfortable that we can put in and not miss a beat.

On that depth not only helping the MLS Sounders, but also the Sounders Reserves: As far as having those guys on the pitch: It’s a great thing for me. As far as week to week, you never know who you’re going to have on the reserve team. And so far, we haven’t had that many significant injuries, and so we’ve been able to have a decent reserve team.

On the challenges of coaching reserve players who want to be on the first team: As a reserve coach, one of the challenges is managing egos, because you do have some disgruntled players at times, guys who feel they should be on the first team. Or sometimes guy who are coming off injuries are just frustrated because they’ve been unable to play and contribute. So you have to find a way of getting those guys motivated to play at 11 o’clock on a Sunday morning. Sometimes guys who were in the 18 the night before only played five or 10 minutes, felt they should have played more, now they have to wake up and get all hyped again for an 11 o’clock match. So you’ve got to really be good at curtailing those egos, letting guys know, ‘Hey, at the end of the day, you’re here to play, you’re here to perform. I don’t (care how angry) you are about not playing or injury or whatever, you’re here to perform and if you’re not playing – whether you’re a previous starter or not – if you’re not playing you’re going to come off the pitch.’ But all the guys have been good, for the most part. They understand the situation. At the end of the day it’s their job, and you’ve got to show up – whether it’s reserve or first team – you’ve got to show up and perform. One of the things I like is that Sigi comes to all of the reserve games, so he’s seeing the performance, the body language, etc., of all the players. So if the head coach is there watching and you’re (not giving your best because you’re angry) it’s not going to help you get on the pitch on Saturday nights.

On the advantages of the probable fielding of a USL Pro team next season: We only have nine games, so like maybe in May we have four games, and then we don’t play again until July. So you don’t really keep guys in a rhythm if they’re not on the first team. But a USL Pro team, once the season starts, you’re probably going to play a game every week, week in and week out, and you’re going to have a longer duration of games, and that helps. And the way it’s going to be set up where you’re able to bring guys up from the USL Pro to the first team, I think it’s going to help a lot. You can train all day; you can train every day all week, if you’re not getting the game fitness, if you’re not getting the opportunity to play in games where you make decisions in games, it kind of stifles your development, and so I think that will be a big plus for us.

On whether he will coach that team, or if it will be a separate entity: I’m not sure. I would love to be the coach of that team because I think it would give me a chance to be a head coach, to be more involved in in-game decisions, kind of like I do with the reserve team. But at the end of the day that’s going to be up to Adrian and Sigi and those guys to determine if they feel that I’m ready for that yet or not. It might be a situation where the team is training the same time along with the first team. It might be a separate entity. I don’t think that has been determined yet. And definitely the coach of that team hasn’t been determined yet. But that is something that I would love to be a part of, and love to get the opportunity to grow in my career and help that team be successful.