BY Stanley Holmes 12:00PM 05/20/2011

Holmes: Sounders need to find field leaders

Sounders Mauro Rosales and Erik Friberg appear to be ready to go against Sporting Kansas City on Saturday. Expect one of them to start and that should make all the difference against the midwestern bottom dwellers.

Erik Friberg doing what he does best: connecting passes. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Let us rejoice.

Mauro Rosales and Erik Friberg could see action against Sporting Kansas City, and it couldn’t come at a more timely moment. The Sounders need these two classy midfielders to impose themselves and take control of the game.

Friberg, who is dealing with an ankle knock, may be less certain than Rosales, who made it through full training sessions this week. Expect to see at least one of them starting this weekend.

“Erik went through pretty much the full warm-up,” Coach Sigi Schmid said. “We played him as a neutral player, so now we’ll see how he responds tomorrow so he might be able to get in a little bit further. And Mauro was all in so that was good.”

Indeed, it is very good news. Seattle needs someone to step up. Forward Fredy Montero appears not to be ready to elevate his play and take charge.  But that also could be a symptom of poor service, which was the case against Portland.

Nate Jaqua and Brad Evans, also injured, offer sincere effort and solid journeymen performances, but their capabilities are limited. Defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado is asserting his leadership credentials from the back line–probably the only one doing so at this juncture.

That’s simply not enough to inspire confidence among supporters, and more importantly, among the squad. The Sounders, also ravaged by injuries to key players, need a leader, or two. And they need it now.

Luckily, those two leaders should be stepping on the pitch Saturday, at 7 p.m. at Qwest Field against Kansas City. If ever Rosales and Friberg want to show their true value and importance to the Sounders, then it needs to be this weekend.

Here’s what they bring to the squad:

They both possess superb technical skills — particularly a sublime first touch — to be able to hold the ball and play out of pressure.

They have vision to see the whole pitch and to find the gaps to play the ball into, or to make that final killer pass into space that splits the defense.

You can’t discount the importance of their veteran, big-game experience. Both players have played at the highest professional level in their countries, and in the case of Rosales, he has played in Europe, too. They know pressure and how to handle it.

This dynamic duo have the ability to control the midfield and dictate the offensive flow of the game. Friberg should be pulling the strings as the center midfielder and Rosales should camp out on the right wing.

Rosales brings the ball upfield during a practice session. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

The Swede’s passing can improve the connection to Montero and Jaqua from the middle of the field. The Argentinian can stretch the defense and then send dangerous crosses into the box. Even better, the two players seem to have formed an understanding during the times they have been on the pitch together. They have the ability to interchange positions with each other — Friberg moving out wide and Rosales drifting into the center. They both like to play clever balls, flicks and utilize quick combination plays that creates spaces and unlocks, or unsettles, the opposing defense.

If Friberg had been available to play against the Portland Timbers, the Sounders probably would have won. Same for Rosales. The lack of leadership in the midfield during that match was evident — despite a solid performance from Alvaro Fernandez.

With Friberg handling more of the attacking chores, that frees Osvaldo Alonso to do what he does best: win balls, distribute and destroy attacks.

There’s never going to be a more opportune moment than this Saturday against a wobbly Kansas City (1-5-1) that has l0st four consecutive and sits at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. The team is reeling from an LA Galaxy shellacking that saw the stars of LA blast four goals into the hapless Kansas City net. The not-so-sporting Kansas City has had the unfortunate luck of having to play all of its games, so far, on the road as it waits for its new stadium to be ready.

No matter. The Sounders, which are an uninspiring 3-3-5, are sitting an unimpressive fifth in the Western Conference (only in the context that this team has been touted to be a championship-caliber team). They have not won since a 3-0 rout against Toronto FC on April 30. The Sounders need to pounce. They need to turn Sporting’s lack of confidence into a massive confidence boost for them.

“I coached the Galaxy when we had to play our first eight games on the road and it’s difficult to play all those games on the road,” Schmid said. “But that’s not our problem, so we have to take advantage of that.”

Let’s watch Rosales and Friberg disassemble a leaky Kansas defense through deft passing, quick movements and cool heads. Let these natural leaders lead the way. It’s what the Sounders need at this crucial juncture.


  • Pixel13

    If the NCAA doesn’t cite the Bruin assistant for the same violation, it becomes even more clear they have one set of rules for the bellwether programs, and another for the rest.
    Also seems like Chillious should retain an attorney in that case.