SEATTLE – Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid wants his team to make beautiful music, and this week he has almost the full orchestra available.
After a long run of makeshift lineups altered by injuries, suspensions and national team conflicts, a nearly full roster is expected to be available at 1 p.m. Saturday when Toronto FC visits Qwest Field.
“The objective is to always try to get your best players on the field and get them to harmonize and be able to play beautiful music together,” Schmid said. “So that’s our goal. That’s what our objective is, and we will continue to work towards that. The goals have not always reflected; but I think we play as attractive of soccer as anyone in the league.”
Midfielder Stephen King, who has started three games, may be the highest-profile Sounder unavailable this week – and perhaps next – due to a hamstring strain.
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However, leading-scorer Fredy Montero returns after missing last week’s draw at Houston due to yellow-card accumulation.
In Montero’s absence, Schmid moved midfielder Freddie Ljungberg to forward, where he responded with one of his best games of the season.
However, Schmid left no doubt about returning Montero to his usual spot alongside Nate Jaqua and sliding Ljungberg back to midfield.
“Freddie did what we needed done in that game (at Houston),” Schmid said. “What we asked him to do was play higher and to play more as a traditional striker. But, I think anytime you can put a guy back on the field who has scored 10 goals for you, that definitely helps the team.”
That guy is Montero, whose goal total leads the Sounders and ranks one goal behind Colorado’s Conor Casey for the MLS lead. Montero’s 10 goals and six assists also combine to rank second in MLS, behind Colorado’s Omar Cummings (eight goals, 10 assists).
Ljungberg said it hardly matters whether he’s at forward or midfield because he usually plays a role that combines the positions anyway.
“Sometimes I play between midfield and the strikers, and that was what I played (in Houston) as well,” Ljungberg said Wednesday. “But I like that. That’s where most people play me and where Arsenal played me – as a winger – but if we’re one goal down or one goal up they put me between midfield and striker. I see that as an attacking midfielder or a withdrawn forward – it depends how you see it.”
Training with a twist
The Sounders had an unusual training session Wednesday, working at Qwest Field before a crowd of several hundred youth soccer camp participants.
The session included a short reserve game against the Seattle Wolves of the USL Premier Development League.
“Having some people watching training always gets the guys a little more motivated,” Schmid said. “... We wanted to get the reserve guys who have not been playing in a lot of games at least 45 minutes of something that seemed a lot more game-like than they have faced, and to play somebody different.”
After practice, the Sounders passed around a microphone, each telling the campers something about himself: Ljungberg said he likes snowboarding, Steve Zakuani said he likes playing Guitar Hero, Montero spoke a few sentences in English, including that he likes to dance.
Then the players handed out postcard-sized pictures of themselves and signed autographs.
“It means a lot,” Schmid said. “It means that we are creating a lot of Sounders fans for the future. The players took their time signing autographs and giving out their autograph cards and stuff. It’s a connection that you will always remember.”
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808