While most of Seattle Sounders FC’s starting 11 appears to be set, the starting forward spot opposite of Fredy Montero remains a question mark.
That job has seemingly been in flux since the beginning of the franchise. The Sounders have tried to fill it with experienced players such as Nate Jaqua and Blaise Nkufo.
This year, it will be all about the young guys – including Mike Fucito, who saw playing time in the Sounders’ 2-0 training game win over the Columbus Crew on Wednesday morning in Bradenton, Fla.
“Obviously, so far, Mike Fucito has played a lot of minutes there,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “Sammy Ochoa has played some minutes there, and we have been looking at (David) Estrada. I still think we have some weeks to decide that, but even in the last 30 minutes (today), we played Christian Sivebaek up front. So we’re looking at the different options.”
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Out of the four potential possibilities Schmid listed, Fucito, a stout 5-foot-9 forward from Harvard, has the most MLS experience after starting 14 games last season and subbing in seven more. But in his 21 appearances, the 25-year-old picked up only two goals and two assists.
Ocho, who doesn’t have as much MLS experience, made nine appearances with the Sounders last season, his first with the team. He played five years with Club de Futbol Estudiantes Tecos in the Mexico Primera Division, making 27 appearances and scoring two goals.
Sivebaek, who recently signed with the Sounders, also has a plethora of international experience. But the majority of his 64 appearances for FC Midtjylland in the Danish Superliga came at either defense or midfield. So far in the preseason, the majority of his playing time has also come at those two spots.
Perhaps the longest shot of the group is Estrada, who was drafted 11th overall by the Sounders in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft. He has played in six MLS games, and the 5-foot-8 UCLA alum has yet to record a goal or an assist.
With leading-scorer Montero, a roaming striker, firmly entrenched as a starter, history has shown Schmid to be more partial to having a tall target man to play alongside – which would fit the mold of Ochoa (6-0) or Sivebaek (6-3).
Schmid said that isn’t necessarily the case.
“I don’t think it’s so much a target forward, as it is a forward who can occupy the central defenders,” Schmid said. “It can be a guy who can use their speed or physical presence to occupy (defenders). It doesn’t have to be somebody who is 6-foot-2 or 6-foot-3, but more importantly, it is somebody who is seeking to get into space behind the opponent’s defense.”
Goals by Montero and Cordell Cato and a scoreless performance by goalkeeper Michael Gspurning fueled the Sounders’ first training game win. The 120-minute game consisted of two 45-minute periods followed by a 30-minute period. Seattle fielded a group of mostly returning starters for the first 75 minutes, and Gspurning played 90. The Sounders will play two more training games while in Florida. Today, they play the U.S. national U17 team at 7 a.m. PST.