The rain was coming down heavily, but that didn't seem to dampen the mood at the first official day of Seattle Sounders preseason training camp. About 200 fans braved the conditions and were treated a series of short-sided games as the Sounders did their first organized ball work of the preseason.
The full complement of Sounders Designated Players were on hand, with Clint Dempsey providing some highlights. During one short stretch of action, Dempsey chipped the trialist goalkeeper from about 25 yards out then dribbled around the goalkeeper and tapped it into the goal rabona-style.
The only active Sounders missing from training were Brad Evans and Jordan Morris, both of whom are currently with the United States national team. They are both expected to rejoin the Sounders shortly after the United States plays the second of two friendlies on Feb. 5.
Schmid on Zach Scott's re-signing: Zach Scott was, indeed, back in training after the Sounders announced the 35-year-old had been re-signed on Friday. From the sound of it, though, Scott's roster spot may not be permanent.
"As we go into Champions League, experience is important to us," Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid explained. "Roman Torres is still injured at this point and we have Evans and [Chad] Marshall, but otherwise we're looking at playing young center backs. It was important for us to have cover, especially in the early season."
Reading between the lines a bit, it sounds like the Sounders are keeping their options open. The final day to buy out players is usually the start of the season and if the Sounders fail to advance Club America it's entirely possible they could use that on Scott. Of course, if Scott ends up impressing or if the Sounders advance, it's also possible he sticks around much longer.
A familiar face: One of the fun games we always enjoy playing at this point in the season is trying to identify the various trialists the Sounders bring into preseason. It's not exactly an exact science and we're sure the Sounders would prefer us to keep it to ourselves, but there doesn't seem to be much harm in the process.
Anyway, Schmid went as far as confirming at least one of the trialists: former Sounders midfielder Nate Sturgis, currently a free agent.
"He has an interest in coming out here and we said we definitely had an interest in looking at him," Schmid said.
Sturgis is getting ready to enter his 11th year in MLS but amazingly is still just 28. Sturgis has played for eight teams in that time and is coming off a year in which he made 15 starts and played about 1,300 minutes for the Houston Dynamo. He played for the Sounders in 2009-10 before being picked by the Vancouver Whitecaps in the 2010 Expansion Draft and immediately being traded to Toronto FC for a first-round SuperDraft pick. He's primarily played as a center mid, but has moved all around the midfield and even played some full back.
Other trialists: There hasn't been any official confirmation, but we're pretty sure we were able to identify a few other trialists as well. Ben Speas was probably the most notable, and he looked ready to impress in training. Speas spent 2012-15 with the Columbus Crew after signing a Homegrown Player contract. He made 41 appearances and 21 starts, scoring two goals and picking up a pair of assists.
It also looked like former Sounders Academy players Michael Gallagher and Ian Lange were training with the team. Both just finished the final years of eligibility at University of Washington. Lange was mostly a defensive midfielder, made 14 starts and played in all 19 UW matches his senior year. Gallagher started all 16 matches he played in last year and was used mostly as a defensive midfielder as well, having also played center back.
The final trialist we think we were able to ID was Shane Haworth, who just finished his fourth year at Seattle University. He was named first-team All-WAC after posting a 18-4-1 record, .778 save percentage and 10 shutouts.