With two games ahead and two behind there are quite a few unfamiliar names to even the die-hard Seattle Sounders FC fan. These non-contract players (trialists and draftees) are on the edge of earning an MLS contract. They come from big schools, small schools or straight from pro ranks overseas. Each now has the chance to show Sigi Schmid and his staff that their next stop on their soccer journey is in Rave Green.
They are “guys who can add something to the team – either something we’re looking for positionally or if they have qualities in their game that are going to make us better and enhance us,” Sigi Schmid told the Seattle media during a Thursday conference call. “We’re still looking for more cover in the middle of the midfield.”
Starting with that midfield is Michael Azira. In the first two preseason matches he’s second (to Andy Rose) in minutes played with 111. Azira’s taken the pitch in the middle of the field as a more defensive mid as well as at right back. That defensive midfield role is familiar ground for him. The Charleston Battery used him there, as did his two stops at NAIA schools. Now entering his third year as a pro, Azira had a breakout year in 2013 that involved a call to the Uganda National Team (he did not play), an appearance with the Sounders Reserves and more than 2,000 minutes with the Battery.
Dzenan Catic has an interesting path to get his 45 minutes in the midfield with Seattle. As a high school player he notched more than 100 goals in Michigan. The one-time state player of the year than did not go to college and instead he pursued opportunities overseas. After two seasons with Kaiserslautern B (their Reserves) he returned to the US and put in a season at an NAIA school. With Seattle he is looking to take promise and professional knowledge to MLS.
“We’re always looking for guys who are quality players who show they can deal with the pressure of the game and that they respond to instructions we’re trying to give them, the coaching,” Sigi expanded, “and that they have a good mentality for wanting to succeed in the game and figure out ways to win the game.”
That means not just midfielders, but young men who can do something unique, maybe add a special thing to the squad.
Tarek Morad has put in 90 minutes while on trial. The former Chivas USA U-23 (Coast Soccer League) and University of California-Irvine player has most of his experience as a defender with some time as a defensive mid. With Seattle his time is as a right back and center back. He is known for being confident on the ball.
Former Vancouver Whitecaps and D.C. United player Long Tan is in camp and the other non-contract player with 90 minutes under his belt in the early preseason. Tan has played both forward and as a wide midfielder in his previous MLS stints. Last year he helped Orlando City SC (entering MLS in 2015) win the USL PRO. Like Azira he played for Seattle Reserves in one match last season.
Coached by Pete Fewing at Seattle University, Miguel Gonzalez went undrafted. The small forward scored 15 goals and was the Western Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year. He is another former Sounder, having played with the Sounders U23s in the PDL last season. His on-ball skills mean that he is an option out on the wing during the preseason.
Kevin Parsemain comes to Seattle by way of Martinique’s league and national team. Only 25, he already has 33 caps for the French Department that plays national soccer within CONCACAF. In the last Gold Cup he scored a penalty against Mexico, but the true sign of his potential was in the 2012 Caribbean Cup when he scored 13 goals in 11 appearances in qualification and the tournament proper. He has a few seasons playing in France’s lower divisions as well. He is one of three Sounders to have scored in Arizona to this point.
Three drafted players are not under contract. Jimmy Ockford, Stefano Rijssel and Fabio Pereira are in some ways similar to trialists (they need to earn a contract) and in others they are not as they were in the 2013 SuperDraft. Pereira knocked in a goal already while playing in the midfield. Rijssel played out on the wing. Like the other two Ockford put in 45 minutes already. During his time he banged up his knee during the first game.
Jason Morrison took a knock early in his trial and his recovery progress is being evaluated to see if his trial should continue or if he should come back later for a better look.
The next chance to see the trialists and first team is Saturday at 5 pm PT against the Portland Timbers at the Kino Sports Complex stadium. On Sunday the club plays the Vancouver Whitecaps FC again. That match is at 10:30 am PT. Both matches will be streamed at SoundersFC.com.