Just as the Seattle Sounders began their next phase of training with small-sided groups, the prospect of competitive games became clearer with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement and Major League Soccer lifting the moratorium on full-team training, with an eye toward restarting the season with a tournament in Orlando.
At the same time, the Sounders received an extra bit of good news: King County has authorized full team training, subject to a health protocol which is approved by both MLS and local health officials. A team spokesperson confirmed to Sounder at Heart that the Sounders will present such a plan and could be in full training within the next 7-10 days. If approved, that would allow the team just under two weeks of full training before they are expected to be in Orlando on or about June 24. Reports have suggested teams with train for another week or two there before playing at least three matches.
Between now and then, the Sounders will be content to progress on their own timeline, though the small-sided training is surely welcome addition to the push to get back to full fitness.
“It’s exciting to have games back, and I know the players are excited to get back and compete with each other,” Sounders midfielder Jordan Morris said on Thursday. “It was good to be back out together today and pass the ball each other and move to Phase 2.”
Morris said the players feel safe with the protocols now in place, and he’s looking forward to the tournament in Orlando. Although the situation is unusual, he is prepared to roll with the punches.
“There’s some logistics that need to be figured out for Orlando, but I think they’re doing a good job putting a plan in place,” Morris said, who has Type 1 diabetes and would be considered high-risk.
The prospect of even going to Orlando was in serious doubt last week, after MLS threatened the players with a lockout if the union did not agree to their terms. Cooler heads eventually prevailed, but not without some bruised feelings.
“The last week or so has been stressful,” said Sounders midfielder and union representative Harry Shipp. “Things are always hard to figure out as far as common ground. Ultimately there’s no winners as far as what happened.”
Hard feelings aside, Shipp said it was nice to be out on the field training and he is looking forward to Orlando.
“We’re going in with an open mind and see how everything works out down there,” Shipp said. “If things weren’t set on the medical front and players didn’t really feel confident, I don’t think there would have been a conversation to go down there, so that was the first hurdle to clear.
“Now we’re trusting that all of those protocols that they talked about are going to be in place down there.”