Two weeks into the 2013 training camp, the Sounders FC is far from the final product we will see on the field when they open the season on March 2 against the Montreal Impact at CenturyLink Field.
While there has been tinkering at some positions around the field, the most glaring changes from the 2012 season will be at center back after the trade of Jeff Parke and the void at forward left by the loan of Fredy Montero.
While Tuesday’s 1-0 defeat to the Portland Timbers in their first preseason match didn’t necessarily clear up any of those position battles, it did provide a window into what players need to do to fill those roles.
Midfielder Mauro Rosales noted that playing with Sammy Ochoa and David Estrada is different from playing with Montero and Eddie Johnson for reasons beyond the Johnson-Montero tandem was one of the top strike tandems in the league. All four play the game differently and have different preferences and tendencies. Knowing those tendencies with any player is important and that chemistry comes with playing time.
“A player like Sammy needs the ball played to his feet and David needs it in space. You have to know before the game how players like to play,” Rosales said. “It’s going to take time to know each other better.”
When the team returns to its full recipe of players in attacking positions, head coach Sigi Schmid will have several options to pick from too. Concocting that recipe in the early stages of the season could be important to Seattle’s offensive success.
“It’s something we’re going to narrow down a little bit,” Schmid said. “It’s a matter of what are we going to do to shift around? We’re still looking. If everybody was here—if (Mario) Martinez was here, if Brad Evans was here and so forth—maybe Mauro Rosales plays up top, maybe (Steve) Zakuani plays up top. You have more forward options than you do right now.”
At center back, the Sounders were also hit by the loss of Patrick Ianni to a broken foot, then just before the match top SuperDraft selection Eriq Zavaleta came up ill and was unable to play. That left the center back duties to Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and a cast of players in on trial – European veteran Djimi Traore, MLS veteran Shavar Thomas and Brazilian youth Leo Lelis.
By the time the Sounders play their next preseason match against the New England Revolution on February 13, the lineup and chemistry will undoubtedly look different as the Sounders evolve into the finished product they hope to have by March 2, especially with two vitally important CONCACAF Champions League matches against Tigres following that on March 6 and March 12.