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Sounders preseason notes: João Paulo introduced to new teammates

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Sounders return to Starfire just in time to welcome their new DP.

TUKWILA, Wash. — After nearly two weeks in California, the Seattle Sounders returned to the cozy, if chilly, confines of Starfire Soccer Complex for a short week of training on Saturday before they head off to Mexico for the final phase of training ahead of the start of Concacaf Champions League.

The roster continues to take shape as João Paulo, the newest Designated Player made his first appearance with the team. João Paulo, whose signing was made official Friday, trained in full with the team and impressed head coach Brian Schmetzer.

“Good passer, reads the game well,” Schmetzer said. “You have realize it’s his first practice. He’ll get used to his teammate. The real test will be when we get him out on the field when we have our full group.”

Sounders General Manager and President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey was able to get the deal over the line in a somewhat unorthodox fashion. Given the continued uncertainty of the ongoing CBA negotiations, he said he wasn’t willing to commit significant resources on a third DP without knowing what the league rules and resources would look like. What made this deal possible, Lagerwey said, was the desire of João Paulo to give MLS a try.

“We were able to find a player who really wanted to come,” Lagerwey said. “We were able to find this loan structure whereby João honestly probably could have had a longer commitment somewhere else but chose the Sounders and chose the loan structure because it helped us out and kept our flexibility without knowing what the CBA was going to be.”

Assessing the games

The Sounders completed the California phase of training with two games, winning one and losing one. In those games, academy and Tacoma Defiance players featured throughout, and Schmetzer indicated he was pleased with the overall progress of the young players, though he did signal out a couple of players who’ve caught his eye.

“I’ve been impressed with [Josh] Atencio, he’s developed well in the last six months,” Schmetzer said. “Chris Hegardt has done well, Shandon [Hopeau] has done well. We’re happy with the attitude and mentality of our young players.”

Saturday’s training session also saw the return of Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan to practice, both of whom had been in camp with the U.S. Men’s National team. Both were excused from national team camp so as to rejoin the team ahead of their trip to Mexico. “They look sharp,” Schmetzer said. “The level is high, it’s the national team. They’re in good condition and mentally they’re happy to be back.”

Other notes

  • The Sounders as it stands are still short a center back or two, but it appears one of those holes could be filled next week, with rumors that Yeimar Gomez Andrade will be joining the team.

“It looks like we’re going to have an announcement early next week,” Lagerwey said without literally confirming the signing.

Assuming that deal comes through with no hangups, that would give coach Schmetzer three starting-level center backs to work with. “When and if that signing happens, you’ll see a big smile on my face,” Schmetzer said.

  • Emanuel Cecchini’s loan to Union de Santa Fe was confirmed by the Sounders on Friday, and the midfielder will not return to the Sounders. “At the end of that period, we would no longer have any rights to Emannuel,” Lagerwey said.
  • The Sounders currently have no trialists in camp, having parted ways with Dillon Serna, the former Colorado Rapids midfielder. There are, however, several Academy and Defiance players still training with the first team as well as Alex Roldan.