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Sounders return to Starfire with hopes of resuming team activities soon

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Players, coaches express relief after conducting individual work outs on Monday.

Photo courtesy of Sounders FC Communications

It wasn’t the full-blown scrimmages or short-sided drills that make up the life of a MLS player, but on Monday the Seattle Sounders got back to a semblance of normalcy as players returned to Starfire for training.

Pursuant to the MLS guidelines and Washington state protocols, the Sounders were limited to voluntary individual workouts with a slew of restrictions on how the sessions could be performed. Among the restrictions were access to indoor facilities limited to essential staff only, and sanitization and disinfection plans for all training equipment and spaces, including disinfection of any equipment used by players (balls, cones, goals) between every session.

Players showed up to training already dressed and wore face masks except when they were actively doing drills.

“Though it’s a small step in our road back to normalcy, we are pleased to have been given the green light by our regional authorities to begin voluntary individual player workouts tomorrow at Starfire,” said Sounders FC General Manager & President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey ahead of the session.

On a basic human level, midfield Cristian Roldan said it was just nice to see everyone in person, social distancing protocols notwithstanding.

“Getting to see the boys in a different fashion, and being back on the field, as pretty fantastic,” Roldan said. “There’s nothing like being on the field. Hopefully we can do team training pretty soon.”

The session was closed the the public and media, meaning only coaches, players and staff were able to attend. Even with the restrictions and limits on training, it was clear the team was happy to return to the practice field.

“Coaches are happy to be out here, players are happy to be out here,” coach Brian Schmetzer said. “It was a good start.”

While the Sounders had their players keeping their fitness through individual training plans and Zoom sessions, those has mostly outlived their usefulness, according to Schmetzer.

“You can only do so much on Zoom,” Schmetzer said. “This is way better.”

Goalkeeper Stefan Frei echoed Schmetzer’s sentiments on trying to replicate training away from the field, noting that even if you have top of the line equipment it’s tough to do what’s required to be ready for game action.

“It’s not just a generic fitness, so you need to as a soccer player be able to focus and get good touches while you’re fatigued,” Frei said. “As a goalkeeper, you need to be able to focus on the ball and do everything as clean as possible while in a state of fatigue. That’s what we want to work up to [and] get those reps in.”

Most of the initial training will focus on gauging the fitness level of the team Schmetzer said. Having been away from Starfire since March 12, it had been over two months since the Sounders were able to conduct anything resembling an in-person training session. Though the sessions were voluntary, Schmetzer indicated that most of the team would be involved in some fashion at Starfire by the end of the week.

“We know where everyone is,” Schmetzer said. “Most of the guys are here, and if they’re not here I know the reason why. This team is committed and we will have everybody here at camp this week.”

Other Notes

Members of the Tacoma Defiance have also started individual training, following the protocols set out by the USL in conjunction with MLS ... The Sounders Classic game this week will feature the Aug. 24, 2014 matchup between the Sounders and the Portland Timbers in Portland. The game can be seen at 7 p.m. Saturday on JoeTV in the Seattle television market, and heard on SportsRadio 950 KJR.