Sounders FC plays the last of its three international friendlies tonight when Chivas de Guadalajara visits Qwest Field.
However, when the Sounders clinched a playoff spot Saturday with a 2-1 win at Kansas City, they also reduced all remaining games on their schedule to something more like friendlies.
Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said he plans to use the remaining games – tonight’s true friendly, as well as the last two regular-season games and the final CONCACAF Champions League match – to fine-tune his sizzling squad for the playoffs.
“We just want to make sure that we keep our rhythm,” Schmid said. “We’ve got to be smart, be careful if we’ve got anybody carrying injuries or little knocks. I think sometimes when teams clinch and sort of know their positions in the playoffs, they start resting guys and the team loses its rhythm. It’s important for us to maintain our rhythm but also be smart and if we do have somebody with a nagging injury, maybe we’ve got to rest them a little bit.”
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The plan starts tonight, against one of the traditional powers of Mexican soccer.
However, with Chivas off to a 2-3-6 start in Mexican first division play, and the Sounders 13-9-6 in MLS, reserves are likely to see plenty of action.
“There’s going to be some guys on the field who haven’t played as many minutes as other guys,” Schmid said. “But it’s an opportunity for them to showcase and shine. ... We never give any games away. So having a game at midweek allows (some reserves) to get 90 minutes, which is important for their fitness, their confidence and their rhythm, so as we move forward they’re ready to go.”
This match concludes the series of international friendlies included in the 2010 season-ticket package. However, after friendlies last season against international giants Chelsea and Barcelona, some fans have voiced less satisfaction with this season’s visits from Boca Juniors, Celtic and Chivas.
Some supporters groups have pushed for fewer friendlies next season – or even their elimination – especially in light of what will be another crowded 2011 schedule including return trips to U.S. Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League, and four additional regular-season MLS games due to the addition of the expansion Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps.
And even Schmid, who generally takes an attitude of simply dealing with whatever challenges the schedule offers, seems to prefer not have a friendly match show up so late in the season.
“I’m sure we’ll sit down and evaluate it (for future scheduling),” he said. “Certainly our first year, we had such high-powered friendlies with Barcelona and Chelsea. This year, obviously for people in the soccer world, Boca was an interesting match, and so was Celtic. Getting them in the summer, I think, is probably a little more beneficial.”
Fredy Montero and Osvaldo Alonso are each one caution away from a one-game MLS suspension for yellow-card accumulation. Schmid clarified that such suspensions would not carry over into the playoffs. ... The Sounders concluded Monday training at Starfire Sports Complex with birthday wishes for designated player Alvaro Fernandez, who turned 25. ... San Jose forward Chris Wondolowski was named MLS player of the week after scoring both goals in the Quakes’ playoff-clinching 2-0 win over D. C. United.
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer
CD CHIVAS DE GUADALAJARA AT SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC
KICKOFF: 7 p.m., Qwest Field.
TV: FSN and TeleFutura.
RADIO: 97.3-FM (1210-AM in Spanish)
SIGI SCHMID SCOUTING REPORT: “They are a good team, and they are well-organized. They are a team that is going to keep possession of the ball. They have got some pretty experienced players with Bofo (Adolfo Bautista), Omar Bravo is another player, (Omar) Arellano is another all of those guys have played for the national team off and on, and they are very experienced players. They have an American kid as well, (Miguel) Ponce, who plays for them some at left back and some at left midfield. They will play some of the guys who haven’t had as many games, but I think it’s going to be a good soccer game.”
NOTES: Chivas arrived in Seattle on Sunday. The Goats have won 11 Mexican first-division championships and were runners up in the 2010 Copa Libertadores, the South American club championship. Top players on Chivas’ travel roster include Bautista, Bravo, Luis Michel and Alberto Medina. Bravo will join MLS next season as a designated player for the Kansas City Wizards. Defender Patricio Araujo and Omar Esparza played in Seattle in 2008 when the Mexico national team defeated China, 1-0. Season-ticket holders are reminded that this game is the “C” ticket on their ticket strip. The Sounders are expecting what might be their largest crowd of the season, but tickets remain available.
NEXT: The Sounders return to MLS action at 8 p.m. Friday, meeting Chivas USA in the final home game of the regular season.
Don Ruiz, staff writer