Two topics particularly struck me today while taking part in a conference call with Sounders coach Sigi Schmid.
First, he was about as enthused as I’ve ever heard him when discussing rookie goalkeepers Josh Ford and Bryan Meredith.
Second, he was notably more reserved his his updates on designated players Blaise Nkufo and Alvaro Fernandez. Each joined the Sounders in the middle of last season, so there was some feeling that their spotty performances might be due to overwork, and that they would be whole different players this season after a little rest and a training camp with their teammates. But I’m not seeing most of that reflected in the quotes below:
On the goalkeeper situation) “That is a tremendous battle and they are both great kids and I think they both have great futures in goal. Any ideas you can think of of how we can hold on to both of them let me know because maybe we can run that past the league and see how that works. We are looking at different options for sure because we like them both and we know that Kasey [Keller] is gone after this year and down the line you don’t know what’s going to be there so you’d rather take what you have right now and both of them have been very good. They have been great trainers. They have been good individuals within the team and each of them have had some great moments at practice. Josh Ford made a save today at practice that reminded me why I would never want to be a goalkeeper when you take a full volley from about five yards away off your chest. On the same token, [Bryan] Meredith pulled one out of the upper-V the other day that you’re going like, ‘Wow, how’d he get to that one?’ Each of them have done very well and I couldn’t be more pleased with both of them.”
On Blaise Nkufo) “Obviously Blaise gave us that guy in the middle of the field who can hold onto the ball and allow the rest of our team to join into the attack, which is an important aspect for any team. What I see from him right now obviously he’s been injured a bit so we haven’t seen as much of him as we would’ve liked, but I thought he did a good job in the Dallas game, especially with a more inexperienced group. He did a good job of holding the ball up for us, of staying in the central position so that we can find him and we need to do better with that and we need to make sure we run off of him as well. In part this goes back to the question earlier about scoring more goals. The other thing for us to score more goals, and it relates to Blaise and to Montero and to all of our attackers, is we need to get more players into the box at key moments. Sometimes we want to score the goal but we don’t necessarily want to get into the box. All of our players have to have a mentality of wanting to get into the 18-yard box when we are getting to the endline, when people are ready to hit early crosses we have got to be more prepared getting in there.”
On Alvaro Fernandez) “He’s a player that hasn’t had the opportunity yet to show what he can bring to our team offensively. I think he has got good pace which is something maybe the fans haven’t seen as much of. He is good in the air which we got an early snapshot on when he scored the goal in El Salvador. He’s also a good crosser of the ball which again we haven’t seen enough of because he didn’t get in that position often enough last year. For him we expect him to really contribute on the offensive part of our game. Also to be somebody who can tuck in from his position to help us control the middle of midfield when we play against teams that have their wide guys tuck in a lot. So it’s just a more consistent impact. I thought last year because of everything that he went through and so forth he was more in and out of games where he would have a good spell and then disappear for a while and then have a good spell. I expect that he will be an awful lot more consistent but he, as Blaise, had long years last year. They need to work a little bit more right now in preseason because they are catching up a little bit because they took a longer break than the other guys and deservingly so. Now it’s a matter of them catching up in all the physical aspects as well.”