Seattle Sounders FC's two most internationally recognized players are preparing for their final season with the club.
It already had been announced that this season would mark the end for goalkeeper Kasey Keller. However, coach Sigi Schmid said Wednesday that designated player Blaise Nkufo also is starting what will likely be his final season in Seattle.
And, Schmid added, those looming departures will affect how he assembles his team for 2011.
“We’re in a situation where we’ve got two players that we pretty much know are in their last year: One is Kasey Keller, and the other is (forward) Blaise Nkufo,” Schmid said in a conference call from Florida, where his team is training. “From that standpoint, you don’t necessarily want to move somebody when you’re going to need that person a year from now; or now maybe you move somebody because maybe you don’t need them right away – this instant – and then next offseason you’re looking for that type of guy. So that’s what we’re trying to balance.”
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Schmid indicated the club has multiple options at both positions.
Competing for the forward spot opposite Fredy Montero, Schmid mentioned Nkufo, Nate Jaqua, O’Brian White, Lamar Neagle and David Estrada.
“There have been a lot of options that way, and all that group is competing against each other,” Schmid said. “The quality is the quality that they show in the games, and that’s where the decisions are going to get made.”
At goalkeeper, Schmid sounded exceptionally enthusiastic about rookies Josh Ford of Connecticut and Bryan Meredith of Monmouth, who are competing with veteran Terry Boss to back up Keller this season.
“That is a tremendous battle, and they are both great kids, and I think they both have great futures in goal,” Schmid said. “ We know that Kasey is gone after this year, and down the line you don’t know what’s going to be there, so you’d rather take what you have right now, and both of them have been very good. They have been great trainers. They have been good individuals within the team, and each of them have had some great moments at practice.”
The Sounders will continue work today in Bradenton, Fla., including a training game against the University of Central Florida.
NEW PLAYOFF FORMAT
Ten of Major League Soccer’s 18 teams will make the playoffs in 2011 under a new format unveiled Wednesday.
The top three teams in the Eastern and Western conferences will qualify and go straight through to the conference semifinals. The next four teams regardless of conference will qualify as wild cards, and they will be seeded and play one game for the right to go into the semis.
Those conference semifinals will be home-and-road aggregate-score series, as in the past. The conference finals and MLS Cup will continue as single-game matches.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org twitter/donruiztnt blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer