Assists on rise as Sounders' Fernandez finds his groove

Alvaro Fernandez

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TUKWILA, Wash. – Álvaro Fernández may have been Seattle’s best finisher in 2011.

En route to scoring nine goals for the Sounders last year, he converted 21.4 percent of his scoring chances, nearly double that of teammate Fredy Montero.

But he certainly lacked in the assist department, and that’s something the Sounders want to change this season. It’s been a success so far, as “El Flaco” logged two assists in the club’s season-opening win over Toronto FC last weekend.

WATCH: Fernández sets up Estrada

“That was something we talked about – we wanted to see him get more assists,” head coach Sigi Schmid said of Fernández, who failed to log an assist in 1,849 minutes on the field last year. “Obviously, he’s shown his ability to get on the end and score some goals and that’ll come as well, but him getting assists is important for our team’s success.”

Production is all about comfort level for Fernández. After signing with the team following Uruguay’s semifinal appearance in the 2010 World Cup, he admitted his first season “wasn’t the greatest,” and it was believed that being so far away from his family affected his performance.

With that problem solved in 2011, Fernández prospered offensively. In addition to his nine MLS goals, he tallied three goals and three assists in eight CONCACAF Champions League matches.

Schmid believes the language barrier is the single biggest thing inhibiting him now. While Montero regularly gives interviews in English, Fernández is still a holdout.

“Obviously, he’s gotten more and more comfortable and that’s important for him,” Schmid said. “English is still an issue. The more English he learns and the more he understands makes it a little bit easier for him, too, makes him a little bit more comfortable. I’d like that to come along a little bit faster sometimes.”

There’s constant speculation, meanwhile, that Fernández could be the target of potential suitors abroad. Asked about that speculation, Fernández reiterated his happiness in Seattle and said he’d only move on if it’s the right situation for both player and club.

“The only fact of the matter here is that I have a contract in Seattle and I’m very happy here,” he said through a translator. “I’m enjoying myself. If an offer comes along that is good for the club or is good for me as a player, that is something that could be talked about, but for now I’m here in Seattle, I enjoy playing in Seattle and that’s all there is to it.”