REDMOND, Wash. — International friendlies like Seattle’s match against Manchester United on Wednesday (10 pm ET, Fox Soccer) give MLS players an opportunity to showcase themselves against the world’s elite. While the final score ostensibly doesn’t matter, Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid said on Monday that he expects his players to be driven by other motivations.
“Every player hopes in the back of their minds, whether they say it or not, that this is their breakthrough game,” Schmid said. “This is their game in front of Cecil B. DeMille and they get discovered.”
According to Schmid, this match represents an opportunity to see first-hand how the best players in the world move, mark, and anticipate. Sounders defender Jeff Parke still remembers playing against Barcelona earlier in his career and is excited to add Manchester United to his list of opponents.
Of all of Man. United’s talented attackers, he’s most looking forward to playing against Wayne Rooney, a player he calls the “engine” that gets the Red Devils running.
“I don’t know about shutting down, but I’m excited to match up against Rooney,” Parke said. “He’s basically the face of England. To go against a player like that, it’s something you can tell your grandchildren and your children.”
The match comes at an opportune time for Seattle players, who currently stand in the middle of an informal midseason break. The practice schedule has been lighter than usual, with the club taking Monday to get in a short practice at the headquarters of software giant Microsoft.
After Wednesday night’s game, the team will get a couple days off before resuming preparations for their CONCACAF Champions League preliminary match vs. Panamanian club San Francisco FC.
Seattle’s July 23 match against Philadelphia was postponed until October, meaning the Sounders will use their full-strength lineup against the Red Devils. Schmid said he will attempt to get as many players in the match as possible without hurting the integrity and flow of the match.
There is a limit, however.
“I’ve had to tell [assistant coaches] Ezra [Hendrickson] and Brian Schmetzer they can’t suit up for this game,” Schmid joked.
Schmid said on Monday that he would like to get O’Brian White (blood clot surgery) back on the field against Manchester United. It would depend on White avoiding any setbacks in his rehabilitation work.
The Sounders coach also confirmed to The Seattle Times on Tuesday that Mrisso Ngassa, a trialist from Tanzania, is expected to see time against Man. United. The Sounders are interested in establishing a longterm pipeline to East Africa and Ngassa, who played last season for Tanzanian club team Azam, represents the first player from that region to train with the MLS club.