Do clothes make the soccer man?

Mar 24, 2011, 4:41 PM | Updated: Apr 5, 2011, 9:50 am

By BILL SWARTZ
710 ESPN Seattle/KIRO Radio

I’ve always thought that how an athlete’s uniform feels or looks is overrated.

The men and women under the jerseys are way more important to overall success.

Watching recent Sounders FC matches, I became curious whether the new Adidas TechFit Jerseys actually give Seattle’s soccer boys an edge. Especially since Sounders FC are winless and haven’t scored a goal in their first two MLS matches.

TechFit came on the scene at last summer’s World Cup in South Africa.

“Traditionally, players would wear a compression layer under their jerseys,” says Adidas America director Antonio Zea. “So we said, ‘OK, at Adidas we want to help players. Let’s make it lighter. Let’s really combine the technology and build it into the jersey itself.'”

Adidas came up with thermoplastic urethane bands meshed into the jerseys, or what traditional soccer players call “kits.” Zea says, “Now the compression material actually helps endurance and muscular responsiveness. Too much muscle vibration can cause fatigue.”

Sounds like a sound scientific notion, but do rave green TechFit tops actually make players run faster, and go a full 90 minutes and beyond?

Generation Adidas player Steve Zakuani was one of the first Sounders to try out the high tech jersey.

“It’s definitely a very light jersey,” Zakuani tells me. “Definitely absorbs your sweat quickly. All the small scientific stuff, we’re all for it. And the jersey looks good, so that makes me happy.”

I asked Zakuani, “Does it make your muscles ripple and work to their highest potential?”

“If I had muscles,” quipped Zakuani, “it might, but I’m a skinny guy.”

In fact, Zakuani’s body fat is a mere 6 percent! Maybe we should all play more soccer.

Defender James Riley isn’t as thrilled with the Adidas TechFit. “I’m a Nike guy sponsored,” Riley chuckles, “but no, it’s fine. I like a tighter jersey. It isn’t as easy for guys to grab a hold of you and drag you down.”

Ever-changing high tech uniforms helped the Oregon Ducks football team reach the BCS title game, but different looking jerseys or pants don’t always work.

I recall Jim Lambright’s Husky football team coming out in all purple pants. They lost and we didn’t see those again that season.

What if the Sounders continue losing soccer matches and their goal scoring drought? Zakuani offers this: “If we don’t score, we’ll probably be throwing TechFit away. But I know we’re going to score, so plan on seeing these jerseys a long time.”

INJURY REPORT

Zakuani might return to the lineup Friday night against Houston Dynamo. He missed the New York Red Bulls game with a hip injury. Seattle might also have forward Nate Jaqua available for the first time this season. He’s been recovering from offseason abdominal surgery. Less likely to play is midfielder Brad Evans, who injured his leg in the opening match against L.A. Galaxy.

The Houston match was originally scheduled for Saturday March 26th at the XBox pitch. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. Friday on 97.3 KIRO FM with Arlo White at the microphone.

COACH’S CORNER

Don’t miss Coach’s Corner 30 minutes before the match. Sigi Schmid and I talk about the goal scoring dry spell, getting some of his players healthy, and how to exploit the Houston Dynamo defense.

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Do clothes make the soccer man?