“It’s always more fun when you score goals.”
After the Sounders FC topped the Atlanta Silverbacks 5-1 on Wednesday night at Starfire in the third round of the US Open Cup, Sigi Schmid opened his post-game comments with those words and nobody personified that statement more than Sammy Ochoa.
After three appearances off the bench in the Sounders FC’s first 13 MLS matches, Ochoa made his first competitive start of the 2012 season on Wednesday and in the 66th minute, he curled a left-footed shot around his defender and inside the far post for his second goal of the night to boost Seattle’s lead to 5-1.
He then turned toward the grandstand at Starfire Stadium and could not contain the smile on his face.
“You never know when you’re going to score your next goal,” he said, with that same smile returning to his face as he recalls the goal. “You have to enjoy that moment.”
It’s been a rollercoaster season for Ochoa so far, though.
When the Sounders left for Arizona for training camp in January, Ochoa stayed behind for the birth of his second child, Thiago Samuel Ochoa. When he returned, he needed to play catch-up after his missed days of training and was by-passed in the pecking order at forward by the performance of David Estrada. The Sounders then brought in Eddie Johnson and it became clear that minutes at forward were going to be hard to come by.
But that didn’t stop Ochoa.
While Estrada, Montero and Johnson have been scoring for the first team, Ochoa has also kept pace in the reserve league. He has started in each of Seattle’s four reserve league matches, scoring twice in their most recent match, a 4-3 win over Chivas USA on April 23.
He has only played one minute since then, coming on as a late substitution in Seattle’s 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire on April 28, but he has kept himself sharp with his efforts in training, knowing that eventually it would pay off when the chance arose.
“It’s hard when you’re not playing week-to-week, but you have to keep working during the week to keep that mentality when you get that opportunity,” Ochoa said. “Right now, all the forwards are scoring and it’s good for the team. We’re making it hard on Sigi to decide who plays.”
Schmid completely understands those frustrations and sympathizes with the 25-year-old forward, but notes that those frustrations have also sometimes kept Ochoa from seeing more playing time.
“It’s frustrating sometimes when you have to train and you don’t always get into games and you haven’t had a lot of reserve games. Sometimes you’ve got to be a special person to sort of push through that and continue to perform every day at practice,” Schmid said. “Obviously, Estrada has done well up front and he’s gotten goals and Montero and Eddie Johnson got some goals there, so it was hard to break past those guys as well.”
On Wednesday, though, Ochoa got that opportunity and capitalized with his brace against Atlanta. For Ochoa, that may also mean more chances to do the same when the Sounders get back into their MLS schedule on June 16 against the Montreal Impact. First, though, they will meet Cal FC of the US Adult Soccer Association in the fourth round of the US Open Cup on Tuesday at Starfire after they shocked the Portland Timbers with a 1-0 overtime win on Wednesday night. Tickets for the fourth round match go on sale Friday morning at 10 am.