SEATTLE – Not even 30 years of coaching experience have made roster cuts any less painful for Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid.
But that’s OK. He wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I told myself early on in my coaching career, I think my second year of coaching, I said, ‘If cutting players ever gets easy, I’m going to quit,’ ” Schmid recalled in a conference call Wednesday.
That necessary evil is back as Seattle’s MLS franchise continues its preseason preparations. With only a few days remaining in the team’s second stage of training camp in Casa Grande, Ariz., more cuts are just around the corner.
While the current roster of 33 will remain intact for the next few days, Schmid said not everyone will make the trip to Bradenton, Fla., for training later this month.
Only a maximum of 28 players can make the final roster (unless the team elects to sign a homegrown player from its academy) and competition for those final spots will likely to come down to the league’s March 1 deadline.
“I feel very fortunate to have the difficult decisions that are ahead of us as a coaching staff, because the guys have made it tough for us and have played well for the most part,” Schmid said.
So tight are the margins that chemistry and camaraderie could be just as influential as talent and ability. While more than 1,000 miles away from Seattle, Schmid has paid attention to which players are hanging out with teammates instead of sitting alone in the corner in front of their computers.
“If you’re a bubble player and you’re also not really within the group, then maybe the other bubble player gets the nod over you because he’s better for the group,” Schmid said. “So when you get to selecting those fringe spots that sometimes make the determination for you.”
With several starters returning, much of the attention has been placed on those fringe spots. Five of the team’s eight rookie draft picks are still in camp and Schmid described competition with other younger players – like second-year forward/midfielders David Estrada and Miguel Montano – as a “battle.”
New arrival Erik Friberg continues to impress in training camp and as he continues to get in shape, Schmid has praised the Swedish midfielder’s work rate, technical ability and feel for the game.
“He’s a simple but effective player,” Schmid said.
“There’s not a lot of complications to his game, which is good because we have guys who do take a little more time on the ball, like (Steve) Zakuani and (Fredy) Montero.”