By John Boyle
Reason No. 492 why Sounders-Timbers is one of the best and most underrated rivalries on the American sports landscape?
In Tuesday morning’s rather meaningless preseason training game between Seattle and Portland, four yellow cards were handed out, all in the first half. Four yellow cards in one half would be a lot for a playoff game, and these teams did it in 45 minutes of a game that’s result meant next to nothing. Fantastic. All told, Sounders FC players were whistled for 10 fouls, while eight were called on the Timbers. The season is still a month away, and these games are more about getting game-fit, not results (Portland won 1-0, by the way), yet players on the teams still found it necessary to dump each other all over the field. Good times. I’m not implying for a second that anyone was out to hurt a rival player, but it’s pretty great that these teams don’t know how to turn off the intensity when they face each other.
Here’s what Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid had to say about the game, which started more than 30 minutes late because his team was stuck in traffic getting from Casa Grande to Tucson (quotes provided by the team):
(On the game…) “Considering all the obstacles we went through today-with a bus ride that was supposed to be an hour that ended up being over two hours because of an accident, with about eight-nine guys out with flu-like symptoms, plus a couple of injuries and all that-I was pleased. In the first half I thought we did alright. We didn’t give up much. They had a couple of chances, we had a couple of chances on their end of the field. Second half, I had to play with more of the trialists and younger guys than I was planning on. A guy like Dylan Remick has never played central midfield, we had him playing central midfield. [David] Estrada, who’s sick, really shouldn’t have played more than 45, we had to throw him back out there…We still almost equalized at the end, so from that standpoint I was very happy.”
(On the adjustments he had to make…) “A lot of adjustments. What we wanted to do was not play guys out of position too much, but we had to with Remick, we had to with [Marc] Burch playing left midfield…as well as Jennings Rex, who’s more of a forward than he is a wide midfielder, so there’s three guys who really played out of position. The other adjustments for us were simply adjustments because there’s guys that don’t know what their runs are, or their coordination between each other. I was very pleased with the coordination between Leo [Gonzalez] and Steve Zakuani in terms of their defending and their attacking on that side of the field, so that was good. That was a good start to it. If you look at the middle of midfield, we had nobody around in the middle of midfield-all those guys were missing, and that’s the engine room usually. Those were all little adjustments that were made.”
(On the sharpness and fitness of the team…) “I think the 45 minutes the guys played was good. There’s some guys that are pretty crushed. There’s guys that came in a little more unfit than the other guys, especially on the front line for us. Their fatigue, because of the work they put in, showed through, so then the sharpness of from a Sammy Ochoa or from a Baba Sodade was not as sharp as it should be or will be for them. Right now we have to get fit. So that’s something that’s important, and along with that we have to look at some center backs so we played some guys there, where we might have played some different guys. We wanted to make sure we got a good look at the guys we wanted to see.”
(On deciding personnel at center back and forward…) “It’s something we’re going to narrow down a little bit. We saw the center backs that play for us, as well. The forward spot, it’s a matter of what are we going to do to shift around? We’re still looking…If everybody was here-if [Mario] Martinez was here, if Brad Evans was here and so forth-maybe Mauro Rosales plays up top, maybe Zakuani plays up top. You have more forward options than you do right now.”
(On the status of the team so far…) “I was pleased with our desire and our spirit. I know theres a lot of Portland fans that are all excited today because they picked up a one-nothing win victory, but I look at it as a situation of, who played, what we came through today, and at the end of the game being down one-nothing we were banging on the door trying to make it one-one. I’m pleased with our character, I’m pleased with our attitude and with our approach and how we played.”
(On coming back to Tucson next week…) “Obviously this is the first year we’re coming back to the desert…so we’re going to see how that works out for us. Every year we always go back and we evaluate and decide. Bringing the team to new locations is important to do so you’re not always in the same old place. Sometimes it can become a little monotonous and a little bit of drudgery, so we have to look at it at the end of it. But we’re excited to come back here in a week. We’re going to be able to be here in Tucson playing games here and that’s the next phase for us now, the game phase. We’ll do a little bit more work on Friday-Saturday in Seattle, then we’ll really concentrate on games and getting our coordination and our timing and cohesion there.”