MLS Soccer

Sounders Burch, Ianni pay dividends

Coach Sigi Schmid made two changes to his starting lineup before the MLS-opening 3-1 win over Toronto last weekend.

Both were on the back line, where Patrick Ianni replaced Jeff Parke in the middle and Marc Burch got his first start with the Sounders in place of Leo Gonzalez.

However, as the Sounders prepare for their next league game Friday against Houston, coach Sigi Schmid said he isn’t yet committing to a regular first 11.

“Our depth is good,” Schmid said. “I think Burch and Patrick came in last game and played well for us. We can come back with Jeff and we can come back with Leo, and I don’t think we lose much. There are other options that we have definitely down the line.”

That approach is familiar to Ianni, who is starting his fourth season in Seattle. He appeared in 18 games in 2009, 25 in 2010 and 16 last season.

“I had a couple of injuries last year at inopportune times when I felt like I was getting going, especially at the end of the year when I wanted to make a push to win a spot going into the playoffs,” Ianni said. “ I got ready to play the best I can this year.”

Because the coach fills out the lineup card, Ianni is focusing on goals that are within his control.

“I’m always trying to play my best,” he said. “That was a definite goal I had of mine this year – not so much starting or an MLS all-star or anything like that – just playing my best and allowing the rest of it to follow. I can only do what I can do, and they make the decision on who plays.”

Burch split his first couple of MLS seasons between Los Angeles and Columbus. He was traded to D.C. United in 2007 and played there through last season, when he had 17 appearances and 11 starts. He came to Seattle in the offseason through the re-entry draft.

His approach to playing time is much like Ianni’s.

“Sigi told me just to be ready: There are going to be times when players are going to have heavy legs, and I think that was the case for (the Toronto) game,” he said. “I just hope I can step in and perform the way he wants me to. I want (a starting spot) to be the expectation. It’s not up to me.”

Both players were especially pleased to be selected for the first 11 last weekend. It was the first opening-day start for Ianni. For Burch, it was his first time playing before a home crowd of 38,709 at CenturyLink Field.

“It was awesome,” Burch said. “The crowd was crazy. Just walking down the red carpet was great. It felt like a big event. Everybody was behind us, and I think we performed well enough. It really just gives you an energy. It makes a big difference. You know that people are behind you.”

Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 twitter/donruiztnt