I've been to two days of practice now, and while I won't pretend to have great insight into any of our new guys, I did feel it would be good to share some thoughts on the atmosphere at Starfire.
In general, I'd say the atmosphere is intense. Today, for instance, you saw the team running 11 vs. 11 drills on a half field and players were slide-tackling with legs up, fighting for 50/50s like it was midseason and generally working up a serious sweat.
Whether it's a starting spot or just to be named to the 30-man roster, only a handful of players seem to be almost guaranteed of anything. That starts in the midfield and goes all the way down to the third goalkeeper.
A lot of this, I think, is fueled by a desire to outperform the first two seasons. Winning two U.S. Open Cups and making the playoffs twice is certainly good, but no one is pretending that should be enough. It's rare that you hear a coach hinting that the core of a relatively successful team could be blown up if they don't win bigger trophies, but that's exactly how he was talking on the first day.
As far as individual players, I'm really intrigued by O'Brian White. I had a chance to talk to him today and he's amazingly soft-spoken for someone that looks so intimidating. This is a player who won the Herman Trophy in 2007 and was the No. 4 pick in the 2009 SuperDraft, who was let go by two teams this off-season. You'd think he'd have a chip on his shoulder, but really just seems to want to find someplace he can fit in and get his career back on track.
"Whenever you go to a new team, it's like a new chapter in your life," he said. "I'm just looking to contribute in any way that I can.
"I just want to do good for myself and good for the team. That's my main focus."
White has been in town for almost three weeks, and has started to make an impression on Sounders coaches.
"When he has been on the field his movements, his movements around the box, I think in every game we have played he has either scored or been goal dangerous, which is what you want from a forward," Schmid said, while noting White is still building fitness. "He’s a big body. He’s got good size, good speed. I think this club is going to have a lot of joy with O’Brian White before the day is over."
My other instant impressions are pretty limited, as I'm still trying to get a handle on who's who. Michael Tetteh is definitely as fast and quick as advertised, and has mostly been playing left mid; Juan Cruz has looked solid on defense; and Mike Fucito seems to be making the most of his opportunities.