“It’s just training, but you picture in your head what the combinations will be like and they look good on paper, but it’s all about finding that chemistry,” said Technical Director Chris Henderson, who arrived in Ventura on Thursday and noted an outpouring of goals by Colombian forward Fredy Montero in a 7-vs.-7 drill on Friday.
Montero has shown some remarkable individual talents all through training, but recently he has developed some keen chemistry with forward-mate Nate Jaqua and midfielder Osvaldo Alonso. Off the field, Montero and Alonso have spent some time together and it has clearly spilled over onto the field, where the two have hooked up on several occasions for some remarkable play.
“The first few days, Montero was 21-years-old, in a new country, doesn’t speak the language and didn’t even have a cell phone to call his parents and he comes from a close family. I think that was a little bit shocking,” Henderson said.
While Montero has been a clear highlight of the early training sessions with his deft footwork and nose for the net, there have been things to build on all over the field, starting from the back, where goalkeeper Kasey Keller has been a leader of the defensive core.
“We knew when we picked him up that he would be an important piece to the puzzle. He’s good at organizing the guys and his choice of words and the way he does it is the right way. And that comes from experience,” said Henderson, who teamed with Keller on the US National Team.
In the midfield, the club is awaiting the arrival of Designated Player signee Freddie Ljungberg, who is recovering from off-season hip surgery, but that hasn’t prevented some solid performances from a growing list of players. Brad Evans and Sebastien Le Toux connected on two goals in Friday’s scrimmages and Khano Smith looks to have taken ahold of the left side of the midfield.
The depth of the midfield has also been apparent, with Stephen King, Sanna Nyassi and Steve Zakuani all making strong cases for playing time and even non-roster invitee Leighton O’Brien has shown the quality that made him a key element on the USL squad.
The group that will take the field as the starting 11 for the season-opener March 19 against the New York Red Bulls is still a long way from taking definite shape, one of the perils of an expansion team. Monday’s game against the LA Galaxy will be as much about determining roster spots as it will developing team chemistry.
“There’s going to be some nerves and it might be a little bit hectic, which pre-season games always are,” Henderson said. “I hope we can just keeep continue working on those combinations and some guys need to have a good performance. This week is important for them if they are going to make the team.
Team development will become the clear priority in the not-too-distant future though.
“There’s going to come a point where the coaching staff has to work on team tactics and the shape of the team because all of a sudden we’re going to blink our eyes and it’s going to be March 19,” said Henderson.
After facing the Galaxy tonight, the Sounders FC will face Chinese club Shandon Luneng Tuesday, the Ventura County Fusion Wednesday and wrap up their training games Friday against the San Jose Earthquakes before returning to Seattle Saturday.