So far every practice I have gone to in the last 3 weeks has been a bright, sunny day, and this has mirrored the results we achieved immediately after these practices. Today’s weather was no different, warm and sunny and as usual the Sounders had an intense training session under the hot sun.
Birthday boy Brian Schmetzer has a definite style of practice that is centered around fast-burst concentrated drills with only short breaks in between. This is created with many small sided actions with the coach constantly demanding the players move faster, the ball to move quicker, and creating an atmosphere of pressure and intensity. The team only takes short breaks and intermixes drills in a way that is very regimented.
The first team worked on a lot of ball handling early before breaking and doing shooting drills. I was interested to see the full team doing these drills, with no distinction between offense and defense. Guys like Morris, Dempsey, and Flaco were outstanding with their fluidity in attack and transition to taking a shot. You could definitely tell who was a polished attacker by their precision shooting (Torres is NOT a striker, and the ball boy is likely searching for a few that cleared the fence from Roman), but believe me when a guy like Marshall got a hold of a shot the keepers knew it, both by how hard it was hit and being reminded by the Evans’ of the team telling them it was a defender. Speaking of Evans as always he was quite vocal, leading by example and was someone clearly heard shouting out orders in all drills.
A 7v7v7 short field scrimmage was exciting to watch, with teams only getting a few minutes on the sideline before being subbed in, and players being forced to play for 10 minutes and then rest for 5. It was nearly impossible to follow the ball, it moved so fast through each team and every time it went out another was moved in immediately to keep this frantic pace. Nico was everywhere in this one, and really excels in tight areas and his ability to get touches in these drills is amazing. I am still impressed with his work rate and endurance in games, but seeing the way he practices it’s easy to follow how he can play so hard when he trains full speed constantly. This wasn’t a soft drill, there were some very distinct tackles and guys throwing their body around throughout.
Practice ended with the entire team going over corner kicks, with Schmetzer taking a very vocal role in directing people. He was right in the thick of things guiding how he wants people to play. The team worked on both offensive and defensive roles in corners, and it was nice to see the team occupied with a facet of the game that had been a recent weakness.
This team is getting healthy at the right time. Erik Friberg looked normal, or at least not in the body cast he could have been after Justin Glad’s tackle. I especially liked him racing Marshall around the field and leaving the defender in the dust when doing laps while laughing at the big center back.
Aaron Kovar (sans shoulder brace!) continues to work as hard on the sideline as the field players, first pulling weights around and then jogging laps while juggling a ball. He looks more and more ready to add something to the team before the end of the season, which I thought very unlikely when he was broken in LA. I don’t know what he adds to the team in this current iteration, but I am excited to see him get some time to learn with a player like Lodeiro to mentor him.
Torres is still a huge man, and although he wasn’t clinical in the finishing drill, had a spectacular 30-yard volley goal during one of the scrimmages that had everyone watching ooh and ahh’ing. He is on a schedule and will return when he is fully ready (not before) but it’s exciting to imagine what he can bring to the team and consistently shows a skill-set that looks dominant. Roman is still on the DL, and Schmetzer provided no timeline as to when that would change.
The attitude that I felt today was just “go get the next one” and there are plenty of guys who know exactly what this upcoming game means to the team from a rivalry standpoint, whether its Brad, Ozzie, or even Flaco. I am loving what I feel is a strong, determined mentality from a team that just grinded out a great result against a tough team.