TUKWILA, Wash. — Danish winger Christian Sivebaek was the one offseason acquisition by the Seattle Sounders that really promised to bring an extra dimension to their play. At 6-foot-3, 194 pounds and possessing tons of speed, the 24-year-old is the kind of player that can cause all sorts of trouble for opposing defenses.
At times, that’s exactly what he’s done. In 88 minutes spread over three appearances, Sivebaek has shown flashes of brilliance with runs down the right sideline that have put defenders on their heels. Against the San Jose Earthquakes last Saturday, he spent much of the first 20 minutes attacking 35-year-old Ramiro Corrales and seemed poised for a breakout performance in his first MLS start.
It didn’t happen.
“I need him to stay in the game on a more consistent basis,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said, while also pointing out that Sivebaek did have some positive moments. “He tends to drift in and out of the game a little bit. That’s something we work on in training every day. His movements off the ball, so we can get him without the ball as well. He’s the kind of player who gets the ball and takes players on. He also needs to be able to get behind the defense using his speed without the ball.”
Sivebaek admits that his first few games in MLS have been a learning experience. After spending the first five seasons of his professional career in the Danish Superliga — most of them with FC Midtjylland — he’s had to adapt to a league that’s much more athletic than he’s used to.
“I’ve already learned a lot of things over here,” Sivebaek told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday. “The players are very professional and they take very good care of themselves. I have to get more experience on the field. There are a lot of things I can learn, especially with the way you move and you always have to be moving because the players are so quick and athletic. That’s the experience I look forward to having.”
HIGHLIGHTS: SEA v SJ
In training, Sivebaek’s potential is blatantly obvious. He’s scored some impressive goals in reserve matches and showcases the kind of talent that makes it hard to believe the Sounders were able to acquire him on a free transfer.
Sounders technical director Chris Henderson notes that part of what made MLS attractive to Sivebaek was the opportunity to start over. His father John was once one of Denmark’s top players and helped lead his country to its best-ever performance in the World Cup while also featuring at Manchester United during a 17-year professional career. In Denmark, it was hard to escape the shadow his father’s legacy cast.
In MLS, Sivebaek has a chance to be his own man, one that Henderson thinks can develop into a very good player.
“He’s one of those guys where every time he’s on the field he’s dangerous in the attack, whether that’s setting up a chance on goal or a chance for himself,” Henderson told MLSsoccer.com. “Those are the things that you ask for and if he has those kinds of sparks, you have something you can work with. But he’s young and he knows that everyday he has to come out and put out the effort.
“He has a tone of potential. We have to make sure from our whole staff that we need to work with him and he’s a bit of a project, but the upside is very high.”
Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.