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Sounders training notes: Departures and arrivals

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Josh Atencio and Ethan Dobbelaere join the fold.

New Homegrown Player Ethan Dobbelaere trains at Starfire Sports this week
(Hans Steele / Sounders FC Communications).

It’s been less than a week since the Seattle Sounders resumed full training with no restrictions, and by all accounts, things have been business as usual ... aside from some notable roster moves.

The most impactful of those moves was the shock departure of midfielder Harry Shipp, who opted to retire on Monday, and the integration of the latest pair of homegrown signings in Josh Atencio and Ethan Dobbelaere. The roster moves didn’t have anything to do with each other, but the Sounders are nonetheless getting used to the changes.

While never quite developed into the star he sometimes showed flashes of becoming, Shipp had a very productive MLS career, culminating with an MLS title in 2019. That also was one of his most productive seasons, scoring five goals and adding three assists in about 1,400 minutes. Shipp said in a team release that he decided to return to school to pursue and MBA, and had been considering retirement after the season before the coronavirus pandemic upended the MLS season.

“I’m sure that it’s a very difficult decision, but that it’s something he didn’t take lightly and I’m sure he made the right decision for himself,” said forward Will Bruin, who has been training with no restrictions for several weeks. “Harry was a great professional.”

With Shipp’s departure, the focus turns to the young additions to the team. Atencio and Dobbelaere had been on the Sounders radar for some time, and were rumored to be among a group of three or four Tacoma Defiance or Academy players eyed for a promotion.

“It’s a step in the right direction for our club; we’re trying to continue that pipeline of academy kids coming up and developing through Defiance and then making it to the first team,” head coach Brian Schmetzer said after Wednesday training. “For those young men, they have to make sure that they understand that this is the big leagues. They’re training with Nico Lodeiro, Raul [Ruidiaz], Joao [Paulo], with Gustav [Svensson]. This is the big time, so they’ve gotta step up.”

Neither Atencio nor Dobbelaere will likely see much first team time to start, but they’ll have the ability to make an impact in training and get used to the higher level of play.

“I think they’re two really good players and they have a lot of potential,” said midfielder Cristian Roldan. “We’re happy to have them on the team.”

With the additions and subtraction, the Sounders’ roster sits at 25 as the team continues its preparations for Orlando. Some teams may depart starting next week, though Sounders General Manager and President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey has previously indicated that the Sounders will stay in town until a week before the Sounders’ first match. That time will likely be spent reintroducing bodies to the rigors of play.

“You start to feel some heavy legs,” Roldan said. “That’s when you know that [playing] soccer is different from fitness. It’s great to see us back one-hundred percent. In the end it’s just one step closer to playing games and hopefully we can be as prepared as we can be.”