Sounders FC reserves also have major-league mentality
With a mixture of youth, veterans and international players on tryouts, Sounders FC's reserves are 6-0, which could translate to a run toward a third consecutive U.S. Open Cup.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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TUKWILA — Sounders FC's major-league mentality isn't just for those playing at Qwest Field.
No, pride and professionalism extends throughout the organization from top to bottom. Need proof? Take a look at the staggering success of the reserve team.
Led by assistant coach Ezra Hendrickson, Seattle boasts a 6-0 record in the MLS Reserve League that could bode well for more success in this summer's U.S. Open Cup. With a roster often consisting of backups, inexperienced youth, players coming back from injury and guest players, the expectations are no different from that of the first team.
"We want to win," said goalkeeper Terry Boss, who has earned four shutouts in reserve games. "It's the organizational culture. Regardless of whether it's out on the practice field or in a game, we take it seriously no matter what it is."
That approach extends beyond attitude. Sounders FC reserves travel early for road games for ample rest and preparation. Home games are played in front of a crowd at Starfire Stadium instead of an empty practice field.
Hendrickson said he's also impressed that coach Sigi Schmid has attended each match, including two on the road in San Jose and Portland.
"I played in the league 12 years, and there have been many times where you don't see head coaches show up to those games. He's been to all of them," Hendrickson said. "That speaks a lot to the type of coach he is. The players know he's there, too, and they're saying, 'He's watching. I'm basically auditioning for the first team.' "
Midfielder Lamar Neagle is someone who aced his tryout. The Federal Way native was a regular on the reserves early in the season, but has started the last two games with the first team.
Another young player, 19-year-old Miguel Montano, worked his way up to a substitute appearance Saturday against Vancouver.
Several others aspire to that route.
"Sigi talks to the whole team about what he's looking for in his first-team players and his starting lineup," said second-year midfielder Mike Seamon. "You get an opportunity in the reserve games to show that you're capable of doing things that he wants."
Reserve games also allow in-game experimentation and scouting. Roger Levesque, who typically serves as a forward or midfielder for the first team, has played often as a defender with the reserves. Seattle has also brought in a handful of international players recently and suited them up in games as a part of their tryout.
"They're all working toward the same goal," said Hendrickson, who deflects any credit for the undefeated start.
Some players think the reserves' achievements might also translate into another run in the U.S. Open Cup that begins later this month. Sounders FC needed its whole roster to win back-to-back titles in the almost 100-year-old competition
"This year I think we'll have a very good shot of winning it again because a lot of MLS teams get knocked out early when they're playing reserve teams," Seamon said. "Your reserves need to produce in the first few games to get your starters on the field in the semis and final, and now you're seeing in a whole season what our reserves can do."
• The MLS Reserve League returned this season after a two-year hiatus.
• Sounders FC midfielder Mauro Rosales was named to the MLS Team of the Week after scoring his first goal of the season in Saturday's 2-2 tie with Vancouver.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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