Going scoreless in one game is certainly no reason to panic or respond with drastic measures.
Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid instead dipped into his well of soccer drills and came out with two exercises to encourage scoring and boost the confidence of his strike force.
The Sounders FC worked on patterns around the box for the first part of training on Tuesday, then on short-field games designed to generate scoring in the second.
“We just wanted a couple of patterns to do that and to get the guys hitting certain balls that we wanted them to hit to get movement from the two forwards up front where they are interchanging to play balls off first time and then to get good service from the wings,” Schmid said.
The aim of the first drill is to get the players accustomed to making those runs into the box, but also to be aware of where their teammates will be when it comes time to recycle their efforts around the box. Any increased comfort will undoubtedly lead to an increase in the speed that the players will be able to make similar decisions when the situations arise in games.
“There are certain things we need to get better at and when you get the opportunity, like I said, go 100% and sprint into the box when the ball is coming in there so you have maybe a step ahead of your defender and then it is much easier to score,” Ljungberg said. “It’s small things like that we try to get into the players.”
After the 1-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls Saturday, Ljungberg pointed to the lack of scoring as a symptom of the absence of forward Nate Jaqua. Although few, if any, of Jaqua’s nine goals in 2009 came off of corner kicks, Schmid said that number could be deceptive to the impact Jaqua carries on corner kicks and set pieces.
“Nate is a different type of forward than the other forwards we have, so he brings different characteristics into the field of play. I think we were the high or second in the league in goals off corners last year and I don’t think Jaqua got many off corners for us,” Schmid said. “The marker who is now taking Tyrone Marshall was maybe marking Jaqua before. So now he is getting a better marker. So it changes their marking assignments when they have Jaqua in there. Their concern about him maybe draws some of the attention away and opens some space for others. So there are all kinds of little things.”
Noonan’s flexibility as a player who can provide service into the box and finish a play allow Schmid the opportunity to be a bit more creative with his use of Ljungberg. Seattle’s assist leader in 2009 is still recovering from a knee to the back that caused him to leave the 2-0 win over the Philadelphia Union in the season opener and limited him in training last week.
“I didn’t train at all last week and I wanted to train a little bit this week. So I’m trying to get on with it. It’s very sore, but it’s bone bruising, so there’s not much you can do,” Ljungberg said. “It affects my leg a little bit. In the game I didn’t really feel it because of adrenaline, but in training it’s worse, especially in warmup. When you get going and you want to win something, it’s easier.”
Still on the injured list at least through the month of April, Jaqua is being examined by a specialist in Philadelphia today. Meanwhile, Brad Evans and Zach Scott both missed portions of training because of injuries. Scott took a hit to the leg in a training scrimmage Monday. Evans, though, had a bit of a different injury. is expected to be back in training Thursday.
“Brad has a weird thing where it has happened like once a season where his knee just locks on him and usually it takes a little bit and unlocks and then he’s fine,” Schmid said. “It’s something doctors haven’t felt they need to do surgery for because it always unlocks on him so we’ll see. Today it didn’t unlock as quickly as it normally does but hopefully it’s unlocked now.”
Evans is expected back in training on Thursday after an off-day for the team on Wednesday. The Sounders FC will face Real Salt Lake on Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. Kickoff is set for 6 pm Pacific Time and can be seen live on KONG 6/16.