The Sounders continue to flirt with African talent. Two invited players have been impressing the coaching staff and are competing to make the travel squad to Arizona, if not the roster.
Edouard Kabamba shares a birthplace with Steve Zakuani and Blaise Nkufo (Democratic Republic of Congo). He scored the best goal of the training session Friday at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton. Kabamba, 24, is a forward and wide midfielder. He started his career with Standard Liege FC in 2003 and made his first-team debut in 2008 in the Belgium Super Cup against RSC Anderlecht.
Kabamba comes with pace and has demonstrated a powerful shot. He pulled up short Friday with a leg strain. Kabamba also played for the Real Madrid reserves before suffering an injury. Chris Henderson, Sounders technical director, heard about him through a friend in Spain, and then things happened from there, and Standard Liege is willing to loan the player. But Kabamba has to make the team. “He’s got very good speed and he scored a great goal today,” coach Sigi Schmid said.
Gambian Seedy Bah, 18, also has been getting a long look and appears to be pushing for one of the final four roster spots. Bah comes from the Colorado Rush Academy program through a Rush Academy in Gambia located in the capital of Banjul. Henderson knows the Rush organization well, having coached for them while playing for the Colorado Rapids back in the day.
Bah held his own in the 11 v 11 scrimmage, playing as a right midfielder, but he prefers playing in the middle and said he needs to improve his defense. He’s got pace, strong technical skills and looked comfortable playing against men. This guy is perking some interest.
Schmid said Bah is one of eight players the staff is considering for the final four spots. “He’s been good. He’s played well,” Schmid said. “He usually puts his stuff on goal. We’ve been very very happy with that.”
If desire counts for anything, Bah should prevail. For Bah and other Africans, soccer is more than playing the game. It’s about putting food on the table for his family in Gambia. “I believe in what I can do,” said Bah, who comes from a very poor family in Bakou. “My mom is taking care of everything. Every day I think of her. I’m ready to kill myself to get a contract so that I can help her.”
And if he doesn’t get a contract here? “I try more and more to get a contract with someone else,” he said. He’ll also return to Rush Academy team if he doesn’t secure a pro contract.
- Casa Grande here they come: Day four of the Sounders preseason camp and the squad of players and coaches are passing and moving on and off the field. Next stop: the desert isolation of Arizona and the Casa Grande training center.
- Desert Dreams: Coach Schmid views the two weeks at Case Grande in two parts: building fitness and evaluating players in full-match scrimmages, and
developing team spirit among players and coaches. “Obviously, it’s very quiet,” Schmid. ” Theres not a lot to do so you can concentrate and focus.”
- Team Bonding: Bring the cards and the Xbox. Rookies better sharpen their singing and play making (think theater, here), says defender and veteran James Riley, who appears to be the unofficial team social organizer. “We’re challenging each other and making it our team. We’re going for it full throttle this year,” Riley said. “It’s definitely time for me to transition to that leadership role, whether by example or being a bit vocal.”
- Roster Trim: There are about 40 players in camp. Not all will make the trip to Arizona. The squad likely will be trimmed to 35 players, maybe less. Players will be told Friday.
- First-team: Coaches divided players into three teams — yellow, orange and white for 11 v 11 inside VMAC (it’s like a massive aircraft hangar). The first team, wearing yellow, in a 4-4-2 formation: Keller, Gonzalez, Parke, Ianni, Riley, Alonso, Evans, Zakuani, Fernandez, Nkufo, Montero. Orange team: Merideth/Boss, Scott, Wahl, Hurtado, Earls, Friberg, Carrasco, Kubamba, Montano, Fucito, White. White team: Ford, Attaway, Gonzalez, Cruz, Tetteh, Seamon, Prieto, Bah, Levesque, Nagle, Estrada.
- Highlight Reel: Kabamba scored a ripper, half volley with his right foot for the Orange team. O’Brian White slotted in a goal for Orange — seizing on a rebound that had initiated from a Servando Carrasco bullet that hit the crossbar. And Fredy Montero beat the offsides trap (or was he just plainly offsides?) and turned the keeper for a left-footed pass into the back of the net. The Yellows looked calm and clean in possession, moving the ball well, switching the attack and linking up well, for the most part. The Oranges played more direct and scored more goals. Lots of hunger. The Whites scrapped and seemed under pressure early on but battled back to pressure the Oranges at the end.
- Controversy at VMAC? If the yells, the screams, the hollering, the expletives, were any indication of referee favoritism, then the Orange and White teams might have a case against the Yellows. A Yellow defensive foul in the box went unnoticed, as did several others, as well as Montero’s offside play for a goal. Still, Orange scored more goals but the Yellows looked strong and confident. Intensity levels remained high.
- Whose the fastest Sounder? Zakuani won this year’s 30-yard sprint test, followed by Kabamba, White, Alonso and Montano.