Some bubble players are stepping up and forcing their way into the conversation for a roster spot.
On the fifth day of preseason camp at Casa Gande in Arizona, it was the turn of midfielders Jonathan Prieto and David Estrada to impress coach Sigi Schmid and the coaching staff. In one of the scrimmages, Prieto scored four goals and hit one off the crossbar in 13 minutes. Estrada’s overall hustle and two-way effort also caught the attention of the coaching staff, Schmid said.
“Prieto had a good game,” Schmid said. “I thought Estrada was very effective when he played.”
Prieto? He is one of the trialists who impressed at the Sounders combine in Las Vegas and has continued to make a case two weeks into preseason. The University of California-Irvine product is a center midfielder. Prieto, 19, was named TopDrawer Soccer All-Rookie second team as a freshman and All-Big West Honorable Mention, 2009. He is left footed but appears to be more of a future development product like Gambian forward Seedy Bah, 18. They could be the kind of players, if they continue to show well, who could be the cornerstone of the Sounders reserve team.
But Schmid cautioned that there will be good days and bad days for these players and their overall effort evens out over time. The key is to avoid getting too excited or too down on one performance. Overall, he was pleased with the competitiveness of the training sessions.
“It was competitive, which is something that we are looking for, and some guys are showing they are adjusting,” Schmid said. “A guy like Prieto or [Corey] Attaway or [Leone] Cruz or [Servando] Carrasco all those new guys its how quickly are they starting to adapt to the speed of play. Today was a good day for Jonathan.
The Sounders began the second cycle of Schmid’s 2-2-1 schedule — consisting of two-a-day practices on consecutive days with one session on the third day. Despite the sun and clear skies the temperatures remained in the mid-thirties for the morning session with a constant wind of six miles per hour.
Following warm-ups with fitness coach Dave Tenney, the group began several intense 5 v 5 short field games.
Finish, finish, finish
Schmid broke the field into three smaller fields. One field featured two small goals where every player had to cross the midfield line before a goal could be scored. The second field was a bit wider and had four small goals, two on each endline. On the third field, there were two big goals on either endline with goalkeepers in each net. Every team played two games on each field, rotating after six and a half minutes, Sounder officials said.
“The main thing we wanted to work at the end of the day was 32.5 minutes of work,” Schmid said. “Its good when you can get that work in.”
Fredy Montero scored in both games on the third field and goalkeeper Bryan Meredith made a couple of difficult saves, including a one-handed stop on Miguel Montaños close-range strike, according to the coaching staff. Forward Pat Noonan participated in full training in the morning session, taking a rest every other game, officials said.
Move quick, move often
Training resumed in the afternoon with another 90-minute session. The group was split into three teams of nine. Two teams played 9 v 9 with six small goals while the third team played soccer tennis on the side.
Cones marked off lines 15 yards out to require teams to score from close-range, forcing the players to focus on short passes and ball movement. The teams then transitioned to a game with two big goals on either side of half of a field. The two-minute 9 v 9 games restricted players to three touches on the ball while the third team lined the sidelines and were allowed one touch.
Montero scored a highlight goal within the first minute of the first game when he beat the keeper with a bicycle kick. Montero chested Kasey Kellers outlet pass and struck the ball over his head in midair. Prieto scored again and forward Kerry Baptiste returned to training to find the net twice.
Sounders FC will train on Friday morning and then play the Vancouver Whitecaps FC in a training game at Grande Sports World at 3 p.m. PT.
Defender Taylor Graham participated in warm-ups during both sessions and did work on the side. Noonan participated in the morning session and was held out of the afternoon. Goalkeeper Terry Boss sat out both sessions due to sickness. Baptiste ran and did work on the side during the morning session. Forward Blaise Nkufo sat out both sessions with a calf strain.