Sounders FC has just two more matches before opening the 2014 MLS season on March 8 at CenturyLink Field against Sporting Kansas City. While the club’s 5-0-1 record is encouraging – showing that Seattle will find a way to work hard enough to get results even when not playing at its best – there is still much to be gained from the final two tests in the Carolina Challenge Cup.
Those final matches will come against the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday and D.C. United on Saturday. After posting a 2-1 win over the Charleston Battery on Saturday, Head Coach Sigi Schmid was encouraged by the result, but was hoping to find greater means to reach those ends in those upcoming matches.
“As our team moves forward, our understanding of each other is going to grow better. We’re still trying to get to know each other in terms of what kind of balls a person likes, what kind of runs he’s going to make and when he is going to make them,” Schmid said. “It wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be, but it’s going to get better.”
Also encouraging for Schmid is that Seattle was able to make halftime adjustments and improve on a first half that saw Sounders FC limited in its opportunities.
Schmid pointed to forward Kenny Cooper as a prime example of how those tactical changes benefitted the team.
“In the first half, he really didn’t connect to the game. In the second half, he found the game,” Schmid said. “We were talking about the ball moving quicker and I thought the first 20 minutes of the second half were good.”
In the match against Charleston, Seattle had eight field players play 90 minutes, but still had its depth on display.
With Djimi Traore, Leo Gonzalez and DeAndre Yedlin all nursing injuries, the defensive depth was put to the test. With Jalil Anibaba in the middle along with Chad Marshall, Dylan Remick manned the left back spot while Brad Evans shifted from the midfield to right back, where he has worked his way into the U.S. National Team with his defensive play over the last year.
With Evans shifting to the back four and Clint Dempsey away on loan, opportunities were opened to test the midfield, as well. With Osvaldo Alonso as the fulcrum in the middle, Marco Pappa and Lamar Neagle were on the wings and Andy Rose provided support and a link to the attack.
“We have options,” Schmid said. “I think that’s the one thing about our team this year is that there are different people we can slot in and there are different personnel decisions we can make.”
To goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann, who earned the start on Saturday but is in competition with Stefan Frei for the starting role, the victory was the result of a blue collar performance that can sometimes be enough to find success when things aren’t working in a team’s favor.
“We’ve got lots of good players. The work ethic is there. We just keep going and keep plugging away,” Hahnemann said.
Wednesday’s match against Houston kicks off at 2 pm PT, with a live stream available on SoundersFC.com.