After the 2013 season came to an abrupt ending with a playoff defeat in the Western Conference Semifinals, Clint Dempsey, Brad Evans and Osvaldo Alonso were called in to Sigi Schmid’s office to talk about Sounders FC’s approach to the 2014 season.
It was a forward-thinking meeting, not dwelling on the bitter close to the season, but on how things could be done differently to find different results the next time Seattle took the field. It was a strategic move by Schmid to make sure the leadership core of the roster was all on the same page as Sounders FC entered a critical year.
“That trio is very important, but it’s not just them. It’s others as well,” Schmid said. “It’s an important trio because of the leadership that they bring to the team and the way they play in the team.”
Just why that triumvirate was selected to represent the whole group and act as a conduit from the coaches to the players was another calculated move by Schmid, each player serving a different purpose in the meeting.
Dempsey has experience on the big stage with the U.S. National Team and in the Premier League, where he exceled for Fulham from 2007-2012. His 102 caps for the U.S. puts him in the top 10 for appearances and his record transfer to Seattle in August made him a focal point for Sounders FC.
“Clint is new to the group, but he’s a very driven individual who wants to be successful,” Schmid said. “He wants to show everybody that coming to Seattle was a good move – not just for him, but for the city of Seattle and for our club.”
Alonso was a 2012 MLS Best XI selection and was voted Sounders FC MVP four times by his teammates. He is the club’s all-time leader in games and minutes played, posting six goals and 12 assists in 139 matches for the Rave Green.
“Ozzie has been a mainstay of our team at this stage and he’s grown with the team, and as he’s grown he’s shown that he’s ready to take on additional responsibility,” Schmid said. “With that responsibility we need him to be composed in the right times in the games and also to lead with the fire that he has.”
Evans has worked his way into a regular position with the U.S. National Team through his ruthlessly consistent play with Seattle. He has 17 goals and 19 assists in 112 matches for Sounders FC in his five seasons with the club and is now the captain of the team after taking a leap into a standout role over the last three seasons. However, his contributions go far beyond his goals and assists.
“Within the game, what a lot of people don’t see is that Brad is the one that often talks and organizes us,” Schmid said. “His leadership and ability to understand what we’re trying to do defensively because you do need some organization and you do need to make sure that people get into the spaces that they need to get into because the offensive flow might get you into different places.”
That field general role makes Evans infinitely valuable to Sounders FC and he will be joined by Alonso and Dempsey in keeping locker room harmony throughout the 2014 season.
“Those three are very important in that, but they’re also very important in the locker room and making sure that we’re committed and we’re focused on getting the results that we want, but also that we’re constantly a team that’s going to fight and battle for each other,” Schmid said.
The meeting was short and came at a time when frustration about the previous few months was the overwhelming emotion. But to Evans, the meeting was important to quickly turn the page on that frustration and shift the attention to the 2014 season.
“I think Sigi felt confident in having me and Clint and Ozzie together to brainstorm a little bit and try to do what he thought would make the team click. It wasn’t doomsday by any means at that point. Everybody was disappointed with how things went, but it was also looking forward to 2014 and every meeting that we’ve had since has been focused on what is going on in 2014,” Evans said. “As a group we’ve slowly put the pieces together and focused on the new season and that was the biggest thing that all of us got out of it.”
Sounders FC opens the 2014 season on Saturday against Sporting Kansas City.