The Sounders made coaches and players available today to take a look back at the 2011 season and to look ahead to 2012.
That next season will come earlier than usual, as the Sounders will not only join MLS teams in getting started in early March, but also will have to be ready for CONCACAF Champions League opponents who will already be in midseason form from their own domestic leagues.
Here’s some of what coach Sigi Schmid had to say:
On the off-season
Obviously we know we have something very important at play right at the very beginning of the year because we’re coming back into CONCACAF quarterfinal play. So we know that that begins before the regular season begins, so it’s a little more urgency in terms of coming in fit into preseason. As I told the guys normally you look to be about 75-minutes fit going into your first regular-season MLS game. Everybody’s sort of at the same stage. But now, going into a CONCACAF game you’re going against teams that are playing and in playing rhythm and are 90-minutes fit, so we have to be 90-minutes fit. So that means better preparation in the off season and a little alteration as to how we go through our training regimen in preseason.
On roster changes:
There’s always going to be changes. Like I told the guys, you look around it’s never the same group from one year to the other. You’re always going to make some changes. That’s just the nature of the job and the nature of professional sports. But I think we’re at a stage right now where we need to add a piece here or there. Obviously missing guys like Steve Zakuani and O’Brian White and Rosales at key moments for us certainly hurt our team, and having those guys back will help our team. But now we need to take that final jump. Based on the regular season we were the second-best team. We want to be the first team now. We want to go after Supporters Shield. We want to go after MLS Cup next year. So we’ve just got to take that little jump forward from here.
On what needs to improve:
Consistency is certainly something that you’re looking at. In the playoff series, compare the first game and the second game. Tactically we really didn’t do anything much different, but the games certainly played much differently. That was a little bit of intensity, a little bit of determination from the players. You can view that as consistency. But I think our ability to play out of the back I think has to get better. So much of the modern game deals with the ball being at the feet of your outside backs. I think the outside backs contributions to the offensive aspects of your team becomes important. I think we found the back of the net very well this year. I think we have to get more shutouts. There’s got to be an improved toughness, hardness, just maturity still in us in those difficult moments of difficult games, and that little bit of leadership. … And consistency of play in the middle of midfield as well in terms of just being the engine room in terms of maybe being a little more creative at times when a teams drops back and just makes it difficult to play.