Frequently after training, Sammy Ochoa checks the digital readout on the GPS unit he often wears to monitor his work on that day, comparing it with previous days with a similar workload. And for as much as he can gain by monitoring his progress using the data from those devices, there is no replacement for the data he produced on Monday – two goals in a 4-3 reserve league victory over Chivas USA.
“It felt pretty good,” he smiled through his beard after training on Wednesday. “The first goal is always the hardest to get and I got two, so hopefully I’ll keep scoring.”
That first goal – and subsequent second goal – was a long-time coming for Ochoa. In 255 minutes in the preseason, he netted two goals and an assist. Though he arrived to training camp in Arizona late after the birth of his second child and didn’t quite get to full fitness, he was still able to produce in short bursts.
Yet his fitness, along with the trade that brought in Eddie Johnson and the emergence of David Estrada, still prevented him from seeing more regular playing time as the 2012 MLS season got under way.
Through five MLS matches, the 25-year-old forward has played 52 minutes in two substitute appearances. He is now getting stronger, though, as he is getting better rest away from the field, as his second son is growing and getting better sleep in the night.
Combined with his more regular playing time in reserve league and training games, Ochoa is showing that he can be an asset to the Sounders in more than just short late-game opportunities.
“I feel a lot better. Playing those 90-minute games is helping out a lot,” he said. “I just have to keep working.”
The work isn’t lost on the coaching staff either, who have seen the type of impact Ochoa can have on the team.
“When guys play well with the reserve team and have good performances it opens up the door and gives them opportunities as they move up,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said.
In 2011, Ochoa made four substitute appearances, scoring two goals in 100 minutes. Additionally, Fredy Montero had two goals and one assist in those 100 minutes, showing that the two could work well in tandem.
Now he is battling for playing time with Estrada and Johnson, but knows that time will come, particularly with the Sounders playing five games in the next 15 days and nine in the next 32 days, including a US Open Cup match which could fall on May 29. He is thriving on that competition, though.
“It’s good competition for everybody. You get mad because you’re not playing, but the team is winning, so it’s working,” he said. “You just have to keep working because you’ll get the chance and you have to do the best you can when you do.”
The Sounders start their tough schedule on Saturday with a road match against the Chicago Fire.