The Seattle Sounders’ entry into the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday gave coach Sigi Schmid a chance to get some little-used players on the pitch, sometimes in positions relatively unfamiliar to them.
Rookie midfielder Fabio Pereira made his first non-Reserve League appearance. Veteran David Estrada, who once scored a hat trick as a Sounders forward, started at right back. And homegrown rookie Sean Okoli moved from center forward to outside midfield.
“Sometimes guys deal with that and sometimes guys don’t,” Schmid said. “I remember when I first had Marc Burch in Columbus I thought he would be a left back, and at that point he didn’t think he was a left back. So we ended up trading him to D.C., and he ended up being a left back. … A lot of guys as they move into the pros, they have to change positions.”
Okoli sounds ready to deal with the realities of this roster, even if playing wide isn’t his first choice.
“I like to play up front,” he said. “… But I can take guys on facing forward. I can use some of my abilities out wide as a winger too. I’m just trying to get better each day at it and try to be effective out there if I get my chance back up front.”
Okoli also cashed in on his Open Cup start by scoring the final goal of Seattle’s 5-0 win over PSA Elite.
“It was a good feeling,” he said. “I thought I was having a little rough game, so having that goal at the end really helps. I was happy.
The Sounders were playing without Clint Dempsey, who is at the World Cup with the U.S. national team, and Obafemi Martins, who was given some extended time off during Major League Soccer’s World Cup break. However, their absence just opened the door for experienced forwards such as Kenny Cooper, Cam Weaver and Chad Barrett.
That glut of firepower also factored in the decision to shift Estrada from the attack – where he had five goals in 2012 – to the defense.
“He’s been playing a lot of right back for us because of our personnel needs, and with us in the reserve games he’s been playing all right there,” Schmid said. “So we felt it was a good opportunity there (Wednesday) night to give him minutes. And so we’ve actually played him more minutes in the back. And again, the forward situation with us adding Barrett this year and Cooper and Tristan Bowen and Sean Okoli, who can all play up there, this is maybe a better fit right now.”
Meanwhile, Pereira – a fourth-round pick from Michigan who grew up in Brazil – played the last half hour in place of Brad Evans.
“Exciting,” Pereira said. “It took a little while for me to get on the field, but it’s a competitive group. … Every team I ever played for, I was always a guy who played all the minutes. Here is a competitive environment. Here it’s professional, and at the end of the day I just want to develop.”
Martins is expected back at Sounders training Friday (June 20). … Tickets for the Sounders-San Jose fifth-round Open Cup match will go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday at SoundersFC.com. First kick is scheduled for 7:30 Tuesday at Starfire Sports Stadium.