It’s a lot later than everyone is used to, but on Monday the Seattle Sounders made their return to Starfire to start the defense of their 2020 Western Conference title — and avenge their flameout in December’s MLS Cup.
The start to the season had been delayed twice due to the renegotiations over a revised collective bargaining agreement, but with those arguments finally resolved, the Sounders can focus on more pleasant matters. Among the pleasantries was a surprise appearance from Jordan Morris, who was on loan with Swansea City before an injury to his ACL cut short his European adventure.
“It was great to see him with his teammates; it adds a good vibe to the training session.” head coach Brian Schmetzer said. “It’s an unfortunate injury to one of our best players.”
The protocols with Covid-19 still raging have long since been a way of life for the Sounders, so the team is used to the testing, quarantines and other guidelines. Still, the contrast to preseason last year, with the virus still seemingly a world away, wasn’t lost on Schmetzer. “We already are in covid protocol so a lot of the stuff we learned last year ... we are going to try to keep the players safe,” Schmetzer said. “There’s a lot of similarities, but structurally it feels different.”
It will be a busy six weeks for the Sounders ahead of the season opener on April 17 against a still undetermined opponent. Major League Soccer not to released the opening opponents for each team, to say nothing of the season schedule. Before then, Schmetzer outlined the preseason goals before the start of the season.
“The priorities are getting them fit and healthy, No. 1,” Schmetzer said. “No. 2 is how to play, systems of play. And then it’s assessment. We brought four or five of the best academy players and we’re eager to see what they can do.”
Among the academy players in preseason training are Juan Alvarez, Cody Baker and Taka Sasaki who join 15-year-old Defiance player Reed Baker-Whiting.
For the players, the start of preseason mean a chance to erase the bitter taste of defeat in last year’s MLS Cup. Midfielder Cristian Roldan said he is looking forward to a fast start to the season.
“For us, we need to bounce back from a tough MLS Cup loss.” Roldan said.
Without any CCL obligations, Roldan said he is hoping for a year with less ups and downs. “We’re looking forward to a somewhat normal year,” Roldan said. “It’s another preseason and another year for a chance at some trophies and I think that’s our mindset going forward. Hopefully we can start off on the right foot.”
The Sounders released their preseason roster which includes a number of academy and Tacoma Defiance players. The roster will be updated periodically, as players come and go throughout preseason:
Juan Alvarez*, Xavier Arreaga, Josh Atencio, Cody Baker*, Reed Baker-Whiting+, Will Bruin, Abdoulaye Cissoko+, Stefan Cleveland, João Paulo, Jordy Delem, Alec Díaz+, Ethan Dobbelaere, Stefan Frei, Yeimar Gómez Andrade, Christian Herrera+, Shandon Hopeau, Sota Kitahara+, Danny Leyva, Nicolás Lodeiro, Jimmy Medranda, Jordan Morris#, Trey Muse#, Nouhou, Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez, Shane O’Neill, Spencer Richey, Danny Robles+, Alex Roldan, Cristian Roldan, Kelyn Rowe, Raúl Ruidíaz, Taka Sasaki*, Ray Serrano+, Brad Smith, Alex Villanueva+
# Out on loan
+ Tacoma Defiance player
* Sounders FC Academy player