TUCSON, Ariz. – It’s decision time for the Sounders FC and head coach Sigi Schmid. With most of the starting lineup already set, the club is now working to determine the look of their full squad as they near the start of the 2013 season.
That means that when they face the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday night in the final match of the round robin portion of the Desert Diamond Cup, Schmid will have an eye on pairing down the roster before the season opening match on March 2 against the Montreal Impact.
“It’s a good opportunity for some of the guys who haven’t played as many minutes to get some minutes in,” Schmid said. “We’re still trying to make some decisions on our roster, so guys are going to get an opportunity to play their way onto the roster or play their way off the roster.”
Many of the club’s expected starters for the match against the Impact will see extended minutes in Friday’s friendly match against Veracruz, a match the Sounders scheduled to help them prepare for their quarterfinal meeting in the CONCACAF Champions League against Tigres UANL. That series starts on March 6 in Monterrey, Mexico, and concludes March 12 at CenturyLink Field as the Sounders look to advance to the tournament semifinals for the first time in club history.
With many of the team’s leaders in that group, some of the younger players will have an opportunity to take on leadership roles in the match against New York.
“It’s a good chance for me to show that leadership on the field and show that coaches how I can lead,” said midfielder Lamar Neagle, who himself has been in the role of a young player looking to make the roster in previous years. “It’s going to be a great opportunity for those guys. I know they’re going to be really excited to play and really energetic. There won’t be a lack of enthusiasm out there.”
Players like Neagle, Alex Caskey and Andy Rose may see extended minutes in the game and for them, it’s a chance not to show that they deserve a roster spot, but that they have earned playing time on a deep Sounders squad.
“Any time you get to step on the field it’s another opportunity to stake your claim and make your case to be in the starting 11 and get minutes with the team,” Rose said. “It’s such a stacked team, so many great players out here, so any chance you get, you have to take advantage of it.”
The next two matchups in the Desert Diamond Cup – Wednesday against New York and Saturday in the tournament final which will be televised nationally live on NBC Sports – provide what would seem to be pressure-packed matches for Schmid to observe his team play. However, he has a different take on the intensity that could come from the matches.
“I don’t look at it as pressure. It’s really an opportunity,” Schmid said. “They have the opportunity to play their way onto the team and they need to take full advantage of that. If that brings increased intensity, then brilliant.”
Kickoff is slated for 6 pm PT on Wednesday, with the match streamed live on SoundersFC.com.