Sounders remaining healthy may be key

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.comJanuary 23, 2013 

Sounders FC reported to training camp this week in exceptionally good health, with only second-year defender Andrew Duran (ACL tear) not cleared for full participation.

Among those who have recovered after missing time with injuries last season are veterans Patrick Ianni (calf) and Steve Zakuani (leg) and second-year forward Babayele Sodade (knee).

The health of the veterans looms especially important because Zakuani’s offensive abilities could help mitigate the loss of club goals-leader Fredy Montero, and Ianni and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado could combine to lessen the impact of the off-season trade that sent central defender Jeff Parke to Philadelphia.

“Not having (Parke) just means Jhon and I have to stay healthy along with all the other guys,” Ianni said. “Inevitably you’re going to have some injuries, but I think we have some depth at center back. At this point, I wish Parke the best. Certainly, he was a good player, but I think we have a good group that can play back there.”

Zakuani says his return to the pitch the previous season gave him confidence going into what will be his fifth professional season. He says he is as fit as he has ever been.

That’s important because coach Sigi Schmid said Zakuani could help this season both as an offensive force and as an emerging team leader.

“He’s always been a great individual player, and he’s always been prepared to play,” Schmid said. “But there’s a little bit of a shift where he feels a little more responsibility to make sure that the team’s ready as well. You do that by setting a good example, and you do that by encouragement and talking – and he’s certainly doing that, as well. I’m really pleased with his attitude. I’m really pleased that he’s fit and he’s ready.”

Sodade believes his lost time may have cost him more than the others because it wiped out his rookie season after being the 34th overall SuperDraft pick out of UAB.

“I came in with Andy (Rose) and all the rookies last year, and they pretty much have a year more experience than I have,” he said. “They’re better soccer-wise with (their teammates) than I am at this stage. But I’ll catch up. Hopefully by the end of preseason I’ll be ready.”

SOUNDERS PICK FIVE IN SUPPLEMENTAL DRAFT

Sounders FC selected five players Tuesday in the MLS Supplemental Draft.

The new Sounders are forward Will Bates from University of Virginia; midfielder/forward Jennings Rex from UNC Charlotte; and midfielders Kevin Durr (Air Force), Kevin Olali (South Florida) and Lebogang Moloto (Lindsey Wilson College).

“Teams for various reasons feel (a) guy might have success or not have success,” Schmid said. “We were happy with the guys we picked. They were guys we had scouted or we had seen either in games or through our combine and feel that there’s something there. So now you’ve got to bring them in and see how that develops.”

Schmid said some of the draftees could arrive in camp as early as today. However, he said Bates will be delayed due to pending knee surgery, while Durr must work out availability issues with the Air Force Academy.

More information on the draft class available at blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer.

ADDED TIME

The Sounders announced start times have been switched to 7:30 p.m. for three home matches: the season-opener March 2 against Montreal; May 18 and Aug. 3 both against FC Dallas. ... Schmid said the first cuts of camp could come before this weekend. ... Schmid also said the club might sign an extra camp goalkeeper to help handle the workload when training shifts to Arizona next week.

Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer @donruiztnt

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