In Major League Soccer, style points are secondary to points in the standings.
But several Seattle Sounders say they were encouraged by improvements that they saw on the club’s recent two-game road trip – especially in the 2-0 loss at Toronto on Sunday.
“I feel a little sorry for the guys that we didn’t get three points because that was by far the best we played,” designated player Freddie Ljungberg said after returning to training Tuesday. “For once we dictated the game – and away from home in Toronto, where normally they say that’s one of the hardest places to go – and we were pleased with that. But sometimes you make mistakes.”
Two killer mistakes came from usually reliable midfielder Osvaldo Alonso and defender Tyrone Marshall. Each lost possession in dangerous spots on the field, and each error directly led to a Toronto goal.
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Alonso and Marshall have been such dependable contributors that Ljungberg said there is little to do but write off the mistakes as the kind of inevitable errors that even the best players make.
“They know, and we know,” he said. “There’s nothing you have to tell anyone. They’re good players, and they will make it better next time. There’s nothing I have to say or anyone has to say.”
Nothing, that is, about the original errors. Coach Sigi Schmid admitted he can live with those.
What concerned Schmid was Alonso’s inability to instantly put his mistake behind him, especially with the Sounders down by just one goal.
“For me the bigger thing was I thought it took Alonso a few minutes to shake it off in the game,” Schmid said. “He’s made so many good plays for us defensively, I’m not going to harp on him and get on him for that mistake. But he’s got to get focused on the game as quickly as possible. That’s an important aspect of it.”
Schmid had created an unusual Sounders lineup for the Toronto game, partly because of injuries to Pat Noonan and Michael Fucito and partly out of his desire to rest those who had played long minutes three days earlier in a 2-2 draw at Dallas.
The result moved Ljungberg and Brad Evans up to forwards, and Sanna Nyassi, Patrick Ianni, Nathan Sturgis and Tyson Wahl all got their first starts of the season.
Schmid said he believes that his experimentation worked, but he stopped short of saying that anything like that lineup would be used again when Columbus visits Qwest Field on Saturday.
“I had no hesitation playing Evans up front,” he said. “… For Sturgis, it was a good opportunity. We wanted to get him on the field. I thought he did well. He got beat up pretty good from some tackles and stuff, but I thought he was important to our movement of the ball, so that was good. Having (Peter) Vagenas, again like I said, gives us a little more possession at times. We have got to find the right balance between possession and going forward quickly. But it was good to see all those guys – Ianni … Nyassi – and see how it all fits together and what should work for us from here on out.”
Schmid added that getting experience for the reserves also should pay off this summer when the Sounders begin mixing U.S. Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League games along with the MLS regular-season schedule.
Goalkeeper Kasey Keller said he is feeling fine again after a blow to the head in the Dallas game caused temporary headache and vision problems.
However, Noonan (hamstring) and Fucito (knee) already have been ruled out for Saturday.
“(Fucito) just had a weird type of injury,” Schmid said. “I guess it’s something that, in fact, our trainer has never seen before, so it’s something that’s going to take another week. … Noonan, we have got to see – anywhere between a week and two weeks.”
Defender Shaun Francis (ankle) is listed as out on the Crew’s injury list.