Sounders FC’s decision to return just about every starter from last season added continuity for the current team.
But it also created few opportunities for the returning reserves.
Just ask defender Tyson Wahl and midfielder Nathan Sturgis, who made their season debuts Saturday in Seattle’s draw at Real Salt Lake.
Wahl: “I didn’t end the season as a starter, so I just wanted to make the team and make sure that I showed well and played well enough to be into consideration for playing time. Obviously, I wanted to break into the starting lineup. I’m just hoping for the best, really. We do have a deep defense – hopefully I’m not just blowing myself up for my own status. But if you look at our roster we have a lot of solid defenders, so the competition is great.”
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Sturgis: “I had a good preseason. I was playing well and hoping to be in the starting 11. But it’s tough. We did well last year and most of the guys came back, so it’s tough to get into the starting 11 this year. But I’m pushing for it and would like to get on the field more. You just have to work hard and be ready when it’s your time.”
Coach Sigi Schmid agreed that Sturgis has been playing well, and that he has been looking for an opportunity to get him some playing time.
That chance came two minutes after the Sounders took a 2-1 lead in Utah on a Tyrone Marshall header. Hoping to protect that lead over the final 16 minutes, he sent Sturgis in for forward Fredy Montero.
“We felt he was a guy who could help settle the game for us a little bit,” Schmid said Wednesday. “He helped us keep possession as he came into the game. ... When we got the lead, we made a different substitution than we would have made. We had one thing in mind, but once we took the 2-1 lead we decided to change it a little bit.”
Sturgis said that’s one of the things about being a reserve: You don’t really know if or when you’re going to be sent onto the pitch.
“It’s kind of a surprise, but it isn’t,” he said. “You don’t really know for sure when it’s going to happen, but you always have to be ready.”
Schmid’s strategy got the Sounders into the final minute of stoppage time with the lead.
But then Salt Lake’s Alvaro Saborio – who also came on as a reserve – worked his way into space in the Seattle defense and finished a corner kick for the draw.
“It all happened pretty quickly,” Wahl said. “I was assigned to (Fabian) Espindola, so I was marking him. (Saborio) was a taller player – I could have switched men with him. But that’s something we have to sort out and organize quicker. At the same time, at the last second, you want to make sure everyone’s marked instead of the confusion of switching. ... It’s a lot more physical than it might look from a few yards away. A lot of stuff goes on that you don’t really see. It’s still inexcusable.”
Wizards visit off loss
While the Sounders were off Tuesday night, the Kansas City Wizards were losing a home U.S. Open Cup qualifying match to the Colorado Rapids, 2-1.
However, Schmid doesn’t think that match will affect the Wizards when they kick off against Sounders at noon Saturday at Qwest Field.
“A couple of guys – Jimmy Conrad, I think Josh Wolff – ended up playing significant minutes,” Schmid said. “(Michael) Harrington and (Kei) Kamara might have played a half each. But outside of that, they played all kinds of different players. I think they certainly wanted to win; you always want to go into every game and win. But they definitely had their eye on the game here in terms of how they set that lineup.”
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808