When Seattle Sounders FC traded for Eddie Johnson last week, the club didn’t merely add a high-profile scoring threat. The move also set off ripples that could reach across the roster and perhaps the league.
It could boost the profiles of former Sounders Lamar Neagle and Mike Fucito, and increase the opportunities for current Sounders Christian Sivebaek and David Estrada, while also casting a shadow over the futures of forwards O’Brian White and Sammy Ochoa in Seattle.
“If O’Brian White wasn’t injured and hadn’t gone through what he went through last year, maybe we’re not talking about this trade,” coach Sigi Schmid said during a Monday conference call from Florida, where the team is training. “… O’Brian being out injured and Sammy maybe not being quite as sharp as we had hoped at this point, yeah, had an impact on us a little bit.”
White missed most of last season becasue of blood clots in his leg, and he hasn’t been able to train with his teammates this year.
Ochoa, who was signed last August, scored two goals in four MLS appearances. He was among the favorites to earn a starting job this season alongside forward Fredy Montero. However, his preseason performance apparently caused the club to expand its options.
“Sammy Ochoa is a player that I thought came on very well for us at the end of last year and can still do some good things,” Schmid said. “But he’s a player that needs to continue to work and work on the physical side of his game as well. So he’s probably left the door open a little bit. … That’s the way it is in professional sports, and we’ve got to make sure that we’ve got our bases covered.”
To do so, the club acquired Johnson, a 27-year-old with experience in MLS, Europe and with the U.S. national team. However, Seattle may not have been willing to part with Neagle or Fucito if not for the emergence of other players.
“Now a David Estrada has an opportunity to get a few more minutes,” Schmid said. “A guy like Sivebaek can obviously get some minutes out there wide, as well. Cordell Cato is somebody who’s going to come along – I’m very confident in his ability. Yeah, it’s a different set of names, but there are still some people who can play there.”
Finally, his move to expansion Montreal could increase opportunities for Fucito, Seattle’s fourth-round pick in the 2009 SuperDraft; and Neagle, a Tacoma native from Federal Way who tried out with the Sounders in 2009 but didn’t catch on until last season (five goals in 23 appearances) gets a shot in Montreal.
“It’s a tremendous tribute to Lamar and to Mike Fucito,” Schmid said. “One was basically an undrafted player and the other one was a player that got picked fairly low; and both those guys have made themselves valuable commodities in this league. They’ve worked very hard, and they grew and developed in the system in Seattle. So that was good. So unfortunately when you get something you have to give something up, and that means now that the door is open for some other people.”
The MLS Reserve League schedule was released Monday. The Seattle reserves have five home games at Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila: April 10 vs. Portland, June 1 vs. Vancouver, Aug. 6 vs. Los Angeles, Sept. 9 vs. Chivas USA and Sept. 25 vs. San Jose. … The Sounders concluded their Florida training sessions Monday. They travel today to Cancun, Mexico, where they will meet Atlante FC in a training game on Wednesday. … Steve Zakuani (leg) and Michael Tetteh (hamstring) will be among a handful of players who will fly home instead of going to Mexico. Johnson is expected to fly south despite a hamstring injury that Schmid called “nothing major.”
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org twitter/donruiztnt blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer