TUKWILA, Wash. — Winter is apparently over, but the Seattle Sounders are still at the starting point of the preseason.
Under sunny skies and (relatively) mild temperatures, the Sounders continued training at Starfire Stadium with most of their signed players back in the fold. Coach Brian Schmetzer, along with Designated Players Raul Ruidiaz and Nicolas Lodeiro returned from their media day duties in Los Angeles a day earlier, and were full participants in training. Schmetzer did provide an update of sorts on two players who have yet to make an appearance on the practice fields — midfielder Gustav Svensson and defender Nouhou.
Schmetzer told the press after training that Svensson is now with the team, and presumably will be at the next training session, while Nouhou should be with the team soon, though he didn’t provide an exact timeline. “We’ll get everybody back prior to the first game,” Schmetzer said.
Schmetzer also elaborated on what will likely be the topic du jour for the remainder of preseason training: centerback. With two signed first-team central defenders in Xavier Arreaga and Shane O’Neill, Schmetzer noted that Arreaga is the top guy to start the season, even with his somewhat limited experience in MLS.
“He’s ready to play,” Schmetzer said. “It’s just, can he get consistent minutes, can he get ahold of the league?”
With the Sounders expected to play between 45-50 games (depending on the progression in Concacaf Champion’s League, U.S. Open Cup and playoffs) and uncertainty surrounding the roster, Schmetzer said the team will look for some of the team’s depth and young players to step up, though that will be dependent on how they develop.
“It just has to be consistency,” Schmetzer said. “I love Harry Shipp, because when I put him on the field, I know exactly what I’m going to get out of Harry. The worst thing in the world is that I set up a game-plan because Danny Leyva is good at this, and [then] he’s not so good at that.”
One of the lessons that Schmetzer learned from the Sounders’ last appearance in Champion’s League is that the entire group will need to be ready, and dividing the team between MLS and CCL isn’t a viable strategy. Prior to the 2018 season, the Sounders had gone so far as to set up split-squad matches.
“You can’t split the group, you’ve got to train them all together,” Schmetzer said. “You never know what’s going to happen: injuries, run of form, tactical decisions. That first Champion’s League game is going to be tricky.”
- Forward Will Bruin continues to work his way back from his ACL injury, but Schmetzer indicated he still has a little ways to go before he returns. “Will is chomping at the bit; he wants to come to Olimpia with us,” Schmetzer said. “But he has to wait a little bit longer.” Bruin said on his podcast that he’s hoping to be playing games in late March or early April.
- Sounders General Manager and President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey said in an interview that some MLS teams will be shuttering their U-19 teams and moving them to USL affiliates. How that will affect the Sounders directly is unknown.
- The Sounders’ last training session at Starfire for this phase of training is on Saturday, after which they will fly out to California for additional training and friendlies. The session is open to the pubic and the Emerald City Supporters will be in attendance.