Throughout his soccer career, Patrick Ianni has been told that he has the tools to be successful.
He has parlayed those natural talents into a three-year run at UCLA that got him picked eighth in the 2006 MLS SuperDraft. He then played three years for the Houston Dynamo and is in his fourth season with the Sounders FC. He has also represented the US National Team at the U20 and U23 levels, wearing the stars and stripes in the 2008 Olympics.
Along the way, though, he has also struggled with his mental consistency.
Last season, he was the number three center back behind Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Jeff Parke, starting 12 matches in MLS play after making 24 starts in 2010, mostly while Hurtado was out with a torn ACL.
Near the end of last season, Ianni decided to take an unusual step – to see sports psychologist Brock Weedman. Encouraged to go to a psychologist by his wife, Ianni was reluctant at first because of the stigma that a visit implied a lack of mental toughness.
“I’ve always been confident in my ability to play, but some of the hiccups throughout my career have been mental things,” Ianni said. “After spending some time with him and realizing that the mental side of the game is a big part of the game, I can finally admit that. It’s really helped me to become mentally stronger and more mature.”
In his first two matches in 2012, he’s shown the impact of his off-season workout plan and his newfound mental toughness. Ianni was out of the starting lineup in the club’s CONCACAF Champions League matchup with Santos Laguna, but after the second leg, head coach Sigi Schmid opted to make changes to his back line, bringing on Ianni and Marc Burch. Starting in matches against Toronto FC and the physical Houston Dynamo, Ianni has been on a backline that allowed just one goal in their first two matches.
“Most importantly, it’s great to get wins,” he said. “Every game is important and it’s been going well.”
For Schmid, the intention was to bring on Burch and Ianni against Toronto, then assess the situation from there. With the convincing victory, he felt he had little choice but to continue with what was working, particularly with the physical nature of the Dynamo and Ianni’s familiarity with their top striker, Brian Ching.
“Sometimes you don’t want to change a winning team. Defensively we did all right,” Schmid said. “I thought he was pretty composed. We wanted to make a change because of fatigue and he’s grabbed ahold of it. He’s stayed simple and stayed focused.”
Now that Ianni is getting the mental maturity to match his physical tools, he’s looking more and more like a player that can make an impact every week for the Sounders.
To Ianni, though, he knows that he still has more work to do with Weedman to keep raising his level of play.
“It’s a continuous process for me,” he said.
Ianni and the Sounders will meet the San Jose Earthquakes at CenturyLink Field on Saturday. Kickoff is slated for 7 pm Pacific Time for the match on KONG 6/16 and broadcast on the radio on 97.3 KIRO FM.