Even though the Seattle Sounders started training camp earlier this week, a few notable faces were missing. Jordan Morris, Brad Evans, and Chad Marshall were in US national team camp, but another important player was also absent: midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro.
Turns out, the Sounders decided to give the Uruguayan a few extra days off this week, to account for how long he had gone without a real break. Due to Lodeiro’s transfer to Seattle in the middle of the MLS season, he basically played for 18 months straight.
Lodeiro, through a translator, told the media on Friday “truthfully, I was tired at the end of the season, it was a long, long year.”
Seattle head coach Brian Schmetzer said the team also considered “how the kid works super hard” on the pitch, and decided that an extra break was right for him. Friday was Lodeiro’s first day back on the training pitch at Starfire, and he’ll travel with the squad to Tucson this weekend to continue preseason preparation. The rest of the team in training certainly felt a lift from Lodeiro’s presence—even Ozzie Alonso, who wasn’t even supposed to be as involved in training this week due to his recovery from a knee injury last season, according to Schmetzer.
It’s understandable that the team might feel a bit more inspired and competitive with a guy like Lodeiro around, and Schmetzer said he’s excited to see how much the team improves if they’re able to consistently field both Clint Dempsey and Lodeiro.
Even though Lodeiro still played a pretty big role in the team’s late MLS Cup run, Schmetzer said that “towards the end of the year, [other teams] figured out some of Nico’s tendencies.” He’s hoping to negate that by providing another creative, technical threat in Dempsey to take some of the heat off Lodeiro.
But even though some of the Sounders’ opponents probably did start to figure out Lodeiro after a few months—it’s important to remember how much soccer Lodeiro had played, without a break, up until that point. After flying and moving and flying some more for international duty, Lodeiro took some much-needed rest back home in Uruguay with his family.
In addition to his rest, Lodeiro said that he got married over the offseason while in Uruguay. Smiling ear to ear and doing his best to have his emotions translated for the media on Friday, he said that he was very happy and that it was a peaceful, small ceremony with close family. The Lodeiros found a house in Seattle, which was crucial: “the most important thing is that I was able to rest near my family. I was able to rest a lot and able to come back with lots of energy to do good things again,” Lodeiro said.
Since it was his first time back in training since MLS Cup, Lodeiro said this first session was pretty tiring, but that it was “beautiful” to be able to return to training with his teammates. He said that he had a hard time describing the feelings that he felt after winning MLS Cup last season, that it was an “amazing, incredible six months.”
It was clear last season that Lodeiro is one of the most professional, but passionate players on the squad, and it shows in his desire to get back to work with his teammates. He said seeing Dempsey back in training and in form was a sight for sore eyes, “it was a beautiful surprise. Clint, for us, is a very important person. He’s going to help the team a lot, and me particularly, I feel more comfortable to have him around.” It was fun seeing the two players interact in small-sided training exercises on Friday as they worked on their communication and chemistry—with a little playful banter on the side.
Even though the team is still awaiting the last few players to join them in camp in Arizona, the return of Lodeiro will help the team significantly with their offseason preparations. As one of the top players in the league, the team just isn’t the same without him—in matches and in training. He also noted that he was impressed with the work of his new teammates so far, because “they are all showing a desire to be here,” which he said was important for what he expects to be a “difficult year.”