Sounders Notes: Schmid Defends Dempsey; FieldTurf Deteriorating; and More

Clint Dempsey

By JASON MITCHELL

Clint Dempsey played more than 90 minutes in Cyprus for the United States Men’s National team on Wednesday, arrived in Seattle on Thursday, and joined the team for practice on Friday.

Despite the travel and the short turnaround, Sounders fans can expect to see at least a bit of Dempsey in Saturday’s season-opening match against defending champion Sporting KC.

“He’ll play a role for us,” Schmid said Thursday.

When asked if he felt the Sounders were getting the same player this spring that they signed last summer, Schmid defended his star player.

“I think there’s a lot of pressure on him,” Schmid said. “I think everybody should back off a little bit, and not put so much pressure on him. He’s the kind of player who wants to perform, he wants to do well, he wants to succeed. Obviously the expectations are (that) he has to be a magic man every time he steps on the field. He doesn’t have to be a magic man, he’s gotta be Clint Dempsey.

“Clint Dempsey can do things that affect the game, that impact the game. He can make plays by playing the way he normally plays. Right now I think everybody’s got these super-high expectations, and it’s a little bit unfair, because he’s been in difficult situations. Coming here without a preseason and jumping into the middle of an MLS season is difficult; going to a team that’s fighting relegation is difficult as well; and now he comes back here. I think with time, he’ll do well. We’ll get him ready for Jurgen (Klinsmann), but more so than anything we’ll get him ready for Seattle.”

Here are some more stories to keep you up to speed on the Sounders:

CENTURYLINK SURFACE CONTINUES TO DETERIORATE

The FieldTurf at CenturyLink Field has rarely gotten stellar reviews, but last season the criticism seemed to grow. More visiting coaches commented on it, and the New York Red Bulls cited it as at least part of the reason for leaving Thierry Henry and Jamison Olave in New York when the team traveled to Seattle for a marquee match in late September.

The surface is now entering its third year after being replaced following the 2011 season. Since then, the stadium has been home not only to the Sounders and Seattle Seahawks, but also to the University of Washington football team while Husky Stadium underwent renovations during the 2012 college football season.

Schmid acknowledged on Thursday that the FieldTurf is worse for the wear.

“It’s not as good as it was last year. It’s not as good as it was its first year,” Schmid said. “That’s just a natural thing. It’s something that once the blades lay down, they don’t want to stand up anymore. I think our grounds crew does a great job. They’re going to do a fantastic job trying to lift (the blades) and get them back up and so forth and make it a more playable surface as far as soccer is concerned. They’re going to do all that they can, and that’s all we can ask for.”

THREE MIDFIELDERS ADDED TO ROSTER

The Sounders signed three midfielders this week, bringing the roster to 27 players. Schmid discussed all three signings following practice on Thursday.

Gonzalo Pineda, 31, joined the Sounders on trial for the 2014 preseason. A central midfielder, Pineda has made over 200 appearances in Liga MX and earned 32 caps for the Mexican national team—including three starts in the 2006 World Cup. He most recently played for Queretaro, making 27 appearances in 2012-2013.

“He adds a lot of experience for us in midfield, he’s technically very clean,” Schmid said. “He sees the game really well. He’s a good personality, fits in really well with the group.”

Fabio Pereira, the final pick in the 2014 SuperDraft, scored two preseason goals for the Sounders. A native of Brazil, Pereira relocated to the U.S. in high school and finished his collegiate career ranked second in University of Michigan history with 22 assists.

“He made our team,” said Schmid, “and he made our team because of his effort. He’s like a big sponge, he wants to learn all the time. Technically he’s very clean, he’s a good player. He loves to play the game, he’s enthusiastic, and he’s got a good future.”

26-year-old Michael Azira made three preseason starts for the Sounders. Azira spent the last two seasons in USL Pro with the Charleston Battery, scoring seven goals in 47 matches. He also scored the game-winner in the 2012 USL Pro championship match.

“He’s a midfielder who will play in Ozzie’s role if needed,” Schmid said, referring to starting defensive midfielder Osvaldo Alonso. “He can also play more attacking as well. Sometimes he’s the kind of player on the field that you don’t notice. You have to watch to see all the little things he does. He’s strong on the tackle, he’s good with the ball, he’s very simple.”

GONZALEZ NEARING FULL HEALTH

Leo Gonzalez, Seattle’s starting left back since early in the 2009 season, has been slow to recover from offseason groin surgery. While not confirming whether Gonzalez would be ready to start Saturday, Schmid sounded confident Thursday that the 33-year-old Costa Rican isn’t far from returning.

“Leo’s doing well,” Schmid said. “He’s getting better. I think he’s really, really close.”

If Gonzalez can’t start on Saturday, second-year player Dylan Remick will likely get the nod.

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Agree with Schmid that people should ease off Dempsey and let him settle in with the Sounders? Think Dempsey will have a solid season now that he’s returning to a more familiar situation? Wish the Sounders and Seahawks could come up with a better solution for the playing surface at CenturyLink?

Share your thoughts below.

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24 Responses to Sounders Notes: Schmid Defends Dempsey; FieldTurf Deteriorating; and More

  1. Jon says:

    As I saw noted on Twitter, ECS has to learn “Magic Man” by Heart now.

  2. Alex H says:

    Regarding the artificial turf. About the only reason to have it is that in conditions of high use and poor weather it holds up better than natural grass. Once it wears out there is no reason to have it whatsoever. You would think that a stadium owned by a billionaire and home to the Super Bowl champions would have a decent playing surface. If not grass then at least some new artificial surface.

    • nate says:

      It’s my understanding that the biggest problem (even more than the overuse) is that the Seahawks prefer the “grass” shorter and more packed down for their pointy-ball games. As the primary tenant of the stadium (and the one that brings in exponentially more income) what the Seahawks want, the Seahawks get.

    • beto says:

      +1 time to upgrade

      if turf is mandatory at least get it to the quality of Portland’s stadium. its a shame that so many of the league’s marquee games on that lousy field.

  3. milbo says:

    This piece hits on all the homer talking points. I’m surprised the author didn’t mention Starbucks

    • Chris says:

      Come on man, don’t forget Nirvana.

    • WK says:

      There is nothing homer-like about that crap playing surface. It sucks and every player in the league who doesn’t play on a similar version at their house dreads a trip to Seattle.

  4. Gerard D. says:

    That field is still the biggest joke in MLS.

    Sounders would be near bottom of the table every season without the insane home field advantage they get on that junk.

    • Portland Don says:

      A bit of an exaggeration, but it does given a competitive advantage to the Sounders when stars like Henry don’t play them, but do when they play other teams.

    • Travis says:

      That field is the biggest joke in MLS? Are you serious? There are some really bad natural grass surfaces in the league, it is clearly not ideal though.

    • milbo says:

      Sounders road record isn’t too bad– and where is the proof showing visiting teams are at such a disadvantage in Seattle. More bias

      • whoop-whoop says:

        For the sake of a discussion on an online forum, perhaps we can get by with/allow common sense rather than the same burden of proof needed to convict and execute man. I think the vast majority of people, players, coaches, pundits etc. would agree that a team who plays regularly on an “unusual” surface has the advantage of being familiar with the weight needed on passes, bounces etc. To think it is not an advantage is almost as ridiculous as the contention that Seattle is a bottom of the table team on another home surface.

        • milbo says:

          With this logic the Sounders should perform horribly on grass and that appears not to be the case if it shows they have a better than average road record.

          These teams/fans/players/trolls should be just as up in arms about Vancouver, Portland and New England but rarely do you see this topic breached..

          Seattle with an asterisk,, that’s all it is.

          Get over your bias

          • whoop-whoop says:

            Lol Easy now.
            Because I disagree with your point doesn’t mean I have a bias against Seattle…. seems to me that maybe you are a tad defensive/suffering from persecution complex? I’ll tell you in fact, I do not have a bias against the Sounders. Overall I have a favorable impression of the team, franchise, fans, city etc. But you know… since the article and discussion are about SEA, that is what I was speaking to. Makes sense, right? For the record, I’d say any team that plays home games on artificial turf has a marked advantage playing on one. I’d say Portland/ Vancouver would have an easier time adjusting to Century Link than say RSL. You know… this is not a new or unusual concept. Can I reference the international game, the pitch in Costa Rica… shall we go back and go through the piles of quotes from players and coaches, the prevailing US fans opinion regarding the advantage this gave the Ticos at home?

            As to adjusting to grass… most/all of these players have played the majority of games on grass fields over their careers. The majority of fields week in and week out are on grass, so it’s easier to adjust. It is much easier to adjust to playing on grass than vice-versa. Proof… no… just going with personal experience and think most players, coaches etc would agree today… and long before Sounders were sharing a home with Seahawks and having to soldier on through such horrible persecution. lol Cheers.

  5. Bobby B says:

    With Schmid blaming Clint’s poor form last year to missing pre-season, etc I think Schmid has just put more pressure on Clint, rather then taking pressure off Dempsey.

    I think the real problem is that Clint is playing in a league where everything moves much more slowly. Clint isn’t a speedster, but can move the ball and think quickly about the next move. When things are moving at a slower pace, he is actually at a disadvantage.

    • Gary Page says:

      I think one of the biggest problems he had last year was lack of support. I saw him play maybe 4 games and at least twice he made great through passes from the top of the box to Neagle and both times Neagle blew wide open chances. On the other hand, Clint got very little service when he was in or near the box.

    • Don says:

      I have said it many times, many places… I think Clint is done as a top tier player. He has been invisible for club and country and his return to Fulham was a total failure. He can’t just magically turn a switch on and be come the Clint of 6 or 7 years ago.

      We’ll see where he is at in the next few weeks but that’s what I think about Clint

    • beachbum says:

      “With Schmid blaming Clint’s poor form last year to missing pre-season, etc I think Schmid has just put more pressure on Clint, rather then taking pressure off Dempsey.”

      which makes agreeing to a contract that let him out of this season’s Sounders preseason (to ultimately flounder at relegation bound Fulham instead of gelling with his teammates) that much more questionable imo

      Clint needs some stability to allow his game to show instead of going from Spurs to Sounders to Fulham then back to Sounders with USMNT gigs here and there, and all in less than a calendar year

  6. RB says:

    “They’re going to do all that they can, and that’s all we can ask for.”

    Except a better surface in the first place, of course.

  7. 2tone says:

    Pretty sad that the Sounders FO isn’t actively seeking to build their own stadium. That turf is crap. I have been on it, it’s bad.

    • KingGoogleyEye says:

      New stadium: several hundred million dollars—and no where to put it.

      New turf: a few hundred thousand dollars—and it can be rolled up and stored off-site.