Depth of the Sounders very evident ahead of 2014 season
Posted by: Matt Gaschk
With the quality of the trialists brought on and the ever-evolving roster, Head Coach Sigi Schmid has a great number of options heading into the year.
At various points throughout the 2014 season, Sounders FC will inevitably face tests of its depth.
Whether it is because of injuries, form or players missing matches for international duty – which is a certainty with the World Cup taking players away in June – Sigi Schmid will need to look down his bench and rely on players not slated for the projected starting 11. After doing that with uncharacteristic frequency in 2013, he will do so with more confidence this time around.
“I think the depth of our group is good. We made some changes and that’s brought some changes into our first team, but also it’s competitive,” Schmid said. “I think that just makes you better as a team and at the end of the day, our depth overall this year is definitely going to be better than last year.”
One of the many tentacles of that depth has been that the quality of the players coming in on trial has been at a new level.
In addition to SuperDraft selections Jimmy Ockford and Fabio Pereira, Seattle has Charleston Battery midfielder Michael Azira, former Mexican National Team midfielder Gonzalo Pineda, Martinique National Team forward Kevin Parsemain and MLS veterans Cam Weaver and Danny O’Rourke all vying for roster spots with just over two weeks remaining until Seattle opens the season on March 8 against Sporting Kansas City at CenturyLink Field.
Parsemain has been particularly impressive in his preseason appearances, netting two goals in two matches against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC in Tucson, Ariz. The 26-year-old has played professionally in Martinique and France and has 23 goals in 32 international matches, including 10 goals in three games in qualifying matches for the 2012 Caribbean Cup and another in last year’s edition of the CONCACAF Gold Cup against Mexico.
“He’s technically very good,” Schmid said. “He’s pretty clean on the ball and when he gets around the 18, he looks to beat people. He has a good ability to find himself a little bit of space and cause some problems.”
In the midfield, Pineda has an even more impressive pedigree, playing with Mexican giants like Pumas and Chivas while also accumulating 44 caps for the Mexican National Team.
His presence in the midfield has made an impact in camp, but the questions surround how the 31-year-old’s fitness and personality fit with the group in place.
“He’s a very talented player and he’s got a lot of experience. It’s about seeing the right fit. When a player gets older it’s about where he’s at physically,” Schmid said. “He’s been great. He’s played. He’s worked hard. He’s listened. He’s fit in well with the group. He’s been doing well.”
The same can be said of Azira. The 26-year-old Ugandan has made an impression with his ability to play multiple positions. A midfielder by trade, Azira has also shown the capability to play either outside back position. With two seasons with the Charleston Battery under his belt, he is also a proven professional.
“He’s versatile and that helps. He’s just a good, steady player who has gotten along well with the group,” Schmid said. “Right now, he’s in the hunt and pushing hard for one of the final spots on the team.”
Weaver and O’Rourke were both late additions to the camp roster, joining when the team returned to Seattle last week.
O’Rourke, 30, has played seven of his nine MLS seasons with the Columbus Crew, amassing 188 matches in his career while helping the Crew to the 2008 MLS Cup title with a career-best four assists in 28 matches that season. Three times in his career, he has also won the Supporters’ Shield – with the San Jose Earthquakes in 2005 and with Columbus in 2008 and 2009.
Weaver, 30, is a 6-foot-4 forward who has played since 2009 with the Houston Dynamo, helping them reach back-to-back MLS Cup finals in 2011 and 2012. The Kent, Wash., native was the 2006 USL Rookie of the Year with the Sounders, scoring 18 goals in his first professional season after winning an NCAA Division II National Championship with Seattle University in 2004. After one season with the USL Sounders, he went to Norway to play with Haugesund until his return to MLS in 2009 with the San Jose Earthquakes. Midway through the season, he was traded to the Dynamo and tallied 13 goals and five assists in 90 matches between the two clubs.
“He was around town and said he’d like the opportunity to come out and train and we wanted the opportunity to look at him and evaluate him, so we decided to bring him in,” Schmid said. “Anytime you can pick up a veteran guy, we’ll see if it’s the right fit. If it makes sense, we’ll do it.”
Sounders FC will train once more at the club’s Starfire training grounds on Tuesday, then depart for Charleston, SC, and the Carolina Challenge Cup, where Seattle will face the Charleston Battery, Houston Dynamo and D.C. United.