Lamar Neagle Dribbles During Session Two. Neagle journeyed from trialist to lower division to trialist again and is now with the veteran group. Photo by Chris Coulter of SoundersPhotos.com
The storm is over, but the need to dig my car out meant I missed session one. If you want a report on that group you will have to go to the Seattle Times or The News Tribune as they were the only print media there today. Most notably was the arrival of Supplemental Draft pick Jason Banton. Banton was still on a London schedule so he did not participate fully. Asked to describe his game he says, "Stylish." He says it's in some ways similar to Steve Zakuani and credits it to a similar North London upbringing where the two share mutual friends. He also said he expects more players his age to try and come over to MLS in a similar manner as his path. His making the roster would help increase that pipeline.
Session two involved more games. The first without the keepers was set up in a manner to ensure that players throughout the modified small side formation pressure the ball at all times. When the team played with keepers, the pressure was stil emphasized, forwards were allowed to be offside, but had to pass to an onside teammate before any shots. Osvaldo Alonso's powerful distance shots were quite effective after getting drop passes from Mike Fucito as Alonso scored several from a bit of distance. Roger Levesque continued to play a rightback in the shortsided games (3-3-1). He notes that his role in training is even more varied than during the season:
Pre-season is always an interesting time because there's a lot of new faces, a lot of people coming in on trial. I sort of fill the role of what ever spot is open on field, because trialists always want to come in play [their] position and the coaching staff wants to see them at their best and see if the can wind up contributing. I kind of bounce around and do what I can to help my team go ahead and compete and keep the level high.
Michael Gspurning's passing from the back is as good as he describes it. He was an outlet pass for wide defenders and showed a comfort on the ball that most keepers don't have. When he threw the ball out to wide mids his passes are quick and on target with low trajectories. New options in build-up will show up this year.
Sigi Schmid noted that training at this point is very similar to previous years, but when the Florida phase comes about things will change as the focus on Santos Laguna will demand a different level of fitness.
Once we really identify, saying 'this is what we think is our starting lineup,' part of that evaluation is going to be on the fitness level of some of the guys. There's a couple of guys I'm concerned about a little bit, that I don't think came back as fit as I would have liked them to have been. So that might effect who we play or how we start in that first game. Once we identify that group of 13 that we think the starters are going to come from their training rhythm will probably change a little bit as we move into mid February.
Sunday is an off day, though one should expect many players to continue fitness work. Next week is a mix between Starfire outdoor training and the annual beep test, sprint testing and other measures of physique.