Fans and players might consider the early-season injuries the Sounders have dealt with as frustrating, but Schmid views them optimistically.
Sigi Schmid likes to throw his players in the swimming pool, and there’s no better time to do it than early in the season.
No, the Sounders coach doesn’t literally toss his players into chlorine-filled water, but it’s a metaphor for how he prefers testing young players in game situations.
“It’s invaluable because you can find out early on who’s able to step up in these situations,” Schmid said by phone Friday after the Sounders had practiced in Texas. “I always refer to it as, ‘You throw people in the pool, and you see who can swim.’ ”
Fans and players might consider the early-season injuries the Sounders have dealt with as frustrating, but Schmid views them optimistically. Instead of harping on the situation in which he is missing multiple starters, it’s an opportunity to learn who can contribute.
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Saturday’s match against FC Dallas — kickoff is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Pacific time, and the match will be televised on Channel 13 — might prove to be yet another testing ground for multiple young Sounders, as the status of midfielder Osvaldo Alonso (groin) and defender Tyrone Mears (hamstring) is unknown. Midfielder Marco Pappa also is absent, as he is training with Guatemala’s national team.
“Obviously we’re hopeful that they’re able to play,” Schmid said. “Right now it’s early in the season, so we’re probably going to err on the side of caution. It’s a marathon, and we don’t want to risk things in this game.”
Coupled with the recent news of forward Clint Dempsey’s hamstring injury, which could force the star out two to three weeks, the Sounders might have to continue to mix and match with the starting lineup in the near future. Dempsey originally was supposed to miss two matches while with the U.S. national team.
The Sounders caught a glimpse of their options during Tuesday’s international friendly with Club Tijuana, and several young players, such as midfielders Aaron Kovar and Cristian Roldan, drew rave reviews.
“We have such a deep squad and obviously a few very, very talented young players,” midfielder Andy Rose said. “I thought they all performed very well, which was what we expected judging by the preseason a lot of them had, and obviously training with them every day. We knew they were more than capable of going out there and performing.”
The unproven players are not the only ones with time at stake. The Dempsey-Obafemi Martins combination at forward will be interrupted for now, and midfielder Lamar Neagle slid up to occupy the empty spot up top against Tijuana.
Schmid didn’t indicate if he would do the same against Dallas, as he also could plug in Chad Barrett at forward. Barrett filled in capably last year when Dempsey was with the national team.
Time will tell what Schmid decides to do, but one thing is clear: He has plenty of options.
“It’s only stressful if you make it stressful,” Schmid said of juggling lineups. “My view is you’re sending out a team that can win the game. A lot of times it’s fun because you can experiment a little … things you can’t do if you have your regular lineup.”