Here’s some of what Sounders coach Sigi Schmid and general manager Garth Lagerwey had to say today about newly signed central defender Roman Torres, and the options he presents along with recently signed forward Nelson Valdez and midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz:
On connecting with Torres) He’s one of the most well-known defenders in CONCACAF. He’s a player I talked to in my old job and these guys talked to here. The deal came together in the last couple of weeks of the transfer window, but he’s a guy that had been on the radar. Everybody watches the Gold Cup, so everybody had seen him.
On if center back was seen as position of weakness) I think Brad Evans has done a nice job at center back for us. This was a question of a good player that became available and a deal that we couldn’t pass up on. I think by doing it it gives us a little more tactical flexibility. We talked about that with the Valdez acquisition, that it gives us the ability to play a couple of different ways if you have a big center back, it gives you a little more flexibility to play a couple of different ways.
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On the three new players) This looks pretty good. It’s fun to have these guys out there. To sign four guys in the transfer window is the most I’ve ever signed, I’m pretty sure it’s the most the Sounders have ever signed in the summer window. Now they have to come out and get it done on the field.
Input with Sigi) We recognized that we haven’t performed at the level that we could, and we had to make adjustments. Then the conversations are about how to make those adjustments. Sigi’s been really good to work with through the window. We’ve obviously been pretty actice and pretty busy. Now he’s got some more choices. … Unfortunately for the last couple of months we have not had great performances from some players. That is what it is. The players make the decisions, and I think we were upfront and forthright that we wanted to go with this group. This group wasn’t able to get the results we wanted, so we had to change it.
On what Torres brings) He’s a large man. He is physical and he is imposing and he is intimidating. Check out his tats too. He’s pretty good. He’s athletic. We’re pretty happy to have him. He reminds me of a centerback I signed a couple of years ago – Jamison Olave. Not quite as fast as Jamison was. But to have that kind of intimidator in front of your goal … you want a guy like Roman on your team.
If there could be more moves ahead) The roster freeze is Sept. 15. You could see us possibly do something, but we’ve spent a fair amount of money now too. We’ve been able to do a lot of this because of my predecessor who happens to own the team was fairly conservative in the off-season. I owe him a tip of the cap because he preserves a lot of resources so that when I came in …. I’d be able to make some chances if I wanted to.
Ivanschitz) He’s a huge and massive addition to our team. He’s a guy who’s done it at the highest level. He’s coming from Levante in La Liga – same player we got Oba from. Oba’s done OK. I think it’s a massive addition to our team, and I hope he’s considered by the public in the same light as Friberg and Valdez and Torres. Obviously there’s a lot of hype and a lot of media around Torres, and I think he’s going to be awesome. But Ivanschitz is a guy if you look out here too, he’s been training for the last two weeks in our program while we waited to get his visa: He’s fit. He could be of all the guys we signed the guy who’s closest to coming in to contribute. … I think he’s going to be a really impactful player for us right away.
On Ivanschitz in Marco Pappa role) Absolutely. If you need a creative player to come in and make the game – minus Pappa we were really hurting in that department in midfield. Ivanschitz comes in an meets this need. The thing that’s really killer for Ivanschitz is he’s really masterful on set pieces. It’s one of the strengths of his game. And if you think about what we’ve done, we’ve really struggled this year in some areas: defending set pieces – we’ve given up more set piece goals that we did all season last year – and scoring set piece goals – we have two or three set-piece goals, I’m pretty sure we’re last in the league. We’ve now added Torres at centerback and Valdez at forward: two guys who are menaces in the air, and a guy in Ivanschitz who can serve a ball. Why have we struggled for two months so badly: Because we can’t grind out a result, we can’t gut through a game, we can’t get a set piece goal even if it’s not so pretty. We’ve now fixed that too, and that’s a huge, huge thing going into the playoffs – if we can make it – that we’ve added these options.
On Torres) He’s an experiences center back. He’s a player that we’ve followed for a while, we’ve had him on our discovery list. At the time it just didn’t look like it was going to work, and the situation presented itself where it could work, and so we decided that we’d react to it. I thought he had a good Gold Cup. I thought he handled himself really well as the captain of the team in a big fracas at the end of the game. But I thought he showed a lot of character at that time point. We’re happy to have him with our team.
On the signing’s impact on Brad Evans) I think Brad’s played well at centerback. I don’t think Brad’s played poorly. I think he’s really adjusted to the position and played well. It just gives us another option. Obviously we could play Chad Marshall and Brad together, we could play Brad and Roman … Zach Scott is there as well. Zach’s a lion, and he fights and he battles, and he’s still an important member of our team. But how many more years does Zach have? We really don’t know at this stage. He’s an important member. It just gives us options. And right now with Ozzie being injured we used Brad in the midfield in that last game, so it gives us that option of pushing Brad into midfield is we need it.
New options) It’s nice to have options. Guys need to be fully fit. The good thing about Torres is that he was training with Millonairos, he just came off the Gold Cup, so he’s closer for sure than the other guys: Valdez coming off an off-season basically. And Ivanschitz as well coming off an off-season. Are they 90-minutes fit yet? We don’t know. But it certainly gives us options. As players get to know each other they get used to each other and then hopefully combinations will be good.
Timeframe) We want to get better week by week. We want to be smart and make sure that we don’t put somebody into a situation where they’re going to suffer a long-term injury. But obviously our expectation is that this weekend all of them can have an impact on the game – whether it’s starting or whether it’s coming off the bench we’re not sure.
New guys at practice today) It was good to have everybody. It would be nice to have Ozzie and Leo Gonzalez and Dempsey as well --- that would be great as well – and also Marco Pappa. Then it would be really interesting. But it certainly put a bounce in some guys’ step because they realized, ‘Wait a second, there’s people here, so maybe my time gets crushed a little bit in this melee.
Additions) It’s going to give us options. We’ve been limited in our options and what we’ve been able to do. Now it should provide us with some options and give us the ability to go back into a 4-4-2, which is what our team is most comfortable in.
Health) Oba has been training full all this week. When the guys were off, he trained on the Monday and the Tuesday. We feel good about it at this stage, but we’ll see. Dempsey the progress is coming along, but he hasn’t been out on the field yet. Ozzie same. Barrett was having a PRP injection today.
Conversation with Evans about the move) I talked to Brad a few weeks ago. We’re good.
Torres offensively) He gives you another target on set pieces. It makes it a little bit harder to match up on Marshall or whatever. Ivanschitz gives us somebody who serves a good ball, so that helps us too. I think even last Sunday against LA, with Friberg serving the ball he served some good corners and we were all of a sudden a lot more dangerous on our corner kicks. Service is a key, and anytime you add another offensive element to the attack it’s good.
On the challenge of Torres not speaking English I think we have enough Spanish speakers. I know he was in contact with Fredy Montero, who gave the city a good recommendation, so he probably gave him some good places to hang out and restaurants to go to. He’s deciding exactly when the family is going to come up because his kids are in school now. All those determinations are something that will be made in the next week, but I think he’ll adjust. It’s not going to be an issue.