TUKWILA, Wash. – As the Seattle Sounders made the march out to Field 12 at Starfire Sports Tuesday morning, they were met by a sight that has become a tradition for the first training session of the season. Fans, waving flags and singing songs welcomed the Sounders to the start of the 2019 preseason.
“The fans are great,” head coach Brian Schmetzer said Tuesday. “ECS was out here, they do a great job. They had not just themselves, but they had banners, flags, everything. It reminded us of home at the stadium.”
In a sense, the fans were as active as the players, who are easing in to the start of 2019 after the longest offseason the club has had since 2015. Even the typical Puget Sound January weather, mid-40s with a light drizzle, couldn’t put a damper on what seemed to be a festive and hopeful atmosphere.
As the club ramps up toward its season opener against FC Cincinnati March 2, getting back toward match fitness will be key.
“The physical preparation has to be there,” Schmetzer said. “We got a little bit of extra time off due to our unsuccessful ending of the year. How do they transition out of a bigger, longer break? There are pluses and minuses there. You can say it was good because we’ve been going for two years, but you could also say too long of a layoff, we might be a little rusty. The physical preparation (is key), the soccer will come. I think we’ve got an experienced group. If you look at our potential starting team, they all played with each other at various parts of last year. I think that part of it will be okay.”
Still, one player who was particularly thrilled to hit the first day of training was Jordan Morris, who the club confirmed Tuesday had signed a contract extension. Finally, the 24-year-old has been cleared to fully resume training activities after a torn ACL sidelined him for the entire 2018 season. The return was a welcome one after the mental difficulties of being able to do nothing but sit and watch.
“It was the toughest part,” Morris said. “The physical part was tough, rehabbing the knee, but the mental part, coming in every single day and wanting to be out there playing. Having to miss the road trips and watch the games from home or at the stadium, it was really tough. There were definitely some tough times that I went to, but being surround by friends and family and a great organization that were able to help and were always there for me, I’m glad it’s over for sure. I’m just excited to be back.”