2010 in Review: Q&A with Seattle's Schmid
SEATTLE – It was a long sophomore season in the Pacific Northwest for Sigi Schmid. The Sounders hit the doldrums by the middle of 2010 and almost looked as if they wouldn’t repeat their sensational debut 2009. But Seattle found their form in the stretch run, qualifying for the MLS Cup Playoffs for the second consecutive year and defending their US Open Cup title.
Schmid recently sat down with local reporters to discuss what went right this past season and what needs to happen to make 2011 even better for one of MLS’ most successful franchises.
What needs to change so next year is as good as you hope?
[inline_node:322829]Schmid: For us, I think the thing is we need to feel the pain of not succeeding this year in terms of the MLS Cup Playoffs. We had success with the Open Cup and we had success by being one of four teams that has made the playoffs in each of the past two years. We want more than that. That hunger has got to be in the pit of our stomach, and that hunger has to be there and that drive has to be there from the first day of next season.
I think we probably need to be more active and dynamic up front. Missing Nate Jaqua for a good part of the season and Blaise Nkufo coming in later, I think that hurt us for a little bit. Missing Brad Evans hurt us because he’s a very active midfielder who gets forward and makes late runs into the box. It gives us another guy who can score goals.
When you put all of those factors together, I think we can take it a step further – but the real thing is just the mentality and that real hunger, pain, whatever you want to call it.
Getting Evans back and having Álvaro Fernández and Nkufo for the full season, are those almost like offseason acquisitions?
Schmid: Yeah, it’s tough for Álvaro and Blaise to come off a European season, a World Cup, very little time off; it makes for a long year. For Álvaro, maybe especially tough because his family is down in Uruguay the whole time and they have a child. I think he’s seen his child maybe a day-and-a-half. I think all those things wear on you to a certain extent.
[inline_node:318648]Having him around in the preseason, having those guys around in the preseason, having Evans back into the fold, having Jhon Kennedy Hurtado back in the fold – to a certain extent, it’s almost like picking up four new guys.
Are there any plans to add players this winter and are there any positions the team is looking to upgrade?
Schmid: There are always plans. You’re always looking. The group that I met with today is not going to be the same group that comes in next year. We have expressed some needs out there. Certainly the health of certain players, how Nate Jaqua recovers from his surgery, so maybe some additional help up front is something that is important for us. We want to continue to have depth in all areas of the field so we will continue to look there.
Do you think playing CONCACAF Champions League wore on you guys?
Schmid: We want to be in those competitions. I think over the years – and again, you don’t adjust to it in one year – but over the years, you sort of adjust to it. Houston’s been doing it for a lot of years and was successful early on. Their situation is a little bit different in that they’re very close to Central America so their travel times and flying times are easier. But certainly with Portland and Vancouver coming in next year, there’s a couple games that we don’t have to fly to and are in our time zone, so that helps as well.
And we will have had the experience of having gone through what we went through this year, which will make it easier next year. Unfortunately, with 34 league games next year and then maybe eight games again in CONCACAF, we are going to be somewhere between 42 to 46 games again. It’s just something that we have to get used to and figure out a better way to be a little sharper, a little more refreshed at the end.
[inline_node:321930]How close are Fredy Montero and Steve Zakuani to achieving their top level?
Schmid: Not close. I think Zakuani made some great strides this year. I was really pleased with how he stepped up his game, stepped up his professionalism on and off the field. I think he’s going to step it up another notch next year.
I think Fredy Montero is a guy who has had two very, very good seasons with us but he is still young and I think he has potential to do more. His goal has got to be to get back on the Colombian national team. His goal has got to be to basically take our team up to that next level as well because he is a very important member of our team.
He has got to remember he is still young. Zakuani has to remember that he is still young. Players reach their peak when they are 26 or 27 so they have got about four more years of growth, each of them.