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S2 helps prepare veterans for important stretch

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Brian Schmetzer sent the players to John Hutchinson’s side to knock some of the rust off before a busy few weeks.

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

TUKWILA, Wash. -- When the lineup sheets went out for S2’s 1-1 road draw against Reno 1868 FC May 19, the inclusion of Harry Shipp, Waylon Francis and Lamar Neagle in the starting 11 raised some eyebrows. Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said the decision to have the three players enter into standard loan agreements was a means to get them minutes during a First Team bye week, and the players said they were glad to have gotten competitive time in.

Shipp, who until recently had been one of a half-dozen injured and unavailable Sounders thanks to a sprained ankle, said it was good to see the field again.

“You can get fit running, but I think those sharp movements where you’re cutting and accelerating with the ball (are tough to simulate),” Shipp said. “That stuff, combined with the mental sharpness of staying engaged. Instead of staying on for 60 seconds, you have to stay on for 90 minutes. I think that was the big thing. Playing again helped me get that back.”

Shipp played 67 minutes against Reno before making way for Australian midfielder Jesse Daley. Shipp completed 87 percent of his 77 attempted passes in a holding midfield role.

Neagle, meanwhile, played just over an hour before giving way to S2 striker Felix Chenkam. The start was Neagle’s first in a competitive match since last June while he was still with D.C. United.

Neagle said that integrating into a team that he had not been training with was a challenge, but that it was crucial to see the field.

“I’ve been playing mostly forward in training, so it’s one of those things where it’s not something new,” Neagle said. “But when you haven’t been playing in a system in a long time and obviously getting the movements down. Offensively, it’s tough to gel with a new team quickly and figure out where they like to put the ball and for them to know where I want the ball. But just getting minutes and being out there was good for me.”

Shipp acknowledged the importance of Seattle’s available players finding success in the immediate future, with the club sitting in 11th place in the Western Conference.

“With the guys out with injuries and World Cup duty, this stretch is important not just for me as a player but for the team getting points,” Shipp said. “If we start going another month without accumulating points we’re going to be in trouble at the end of the year, so I think we’re not going to wait for saviors to come back or guys to come back from the World Cup. It’s on us 16-18 guys to amass points before those other guys get back.”