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Sounders preseason notes: Ups and downs early in training

Some positive Covid tests and a delayed return of Ruidiaz aside, Brian Schmetzer seems happy with how things are progressing overall.

BRYAN BABCOCK, Sounders FC Communications

For a team dealing with an ongoing worldwide pandemic, the Seattle Sounders’ preseason has been pretty normal.

The season is still about a month away, but as the Sounders progress through the six-week preseason, coach Brian Schmetzer said he’s been dealing with the usual ups and downs of training camp. In some ways that is likely a relief after a hectic 2020, which was halted just two games into the year, and then restarted nearly four months later in a bubble in Orlando.

“I don’t think this preseason is any different,” Schmetzer said. “The young players are driving some of the enthusiasm. The old senior pros are doing their thing; they know what their bodies need to get ready. There is competition in certain spots [and] that always drives the level of training up.”

That doesn’t mean everything has gone exactly to plan, though. Schmetzer did disclose that there have been multiple positive Covid-19 tests, though he declined to disclose who and how many have been infected. But that notable exception aside, the Sounders continue to prepare for the season opener against Minnesota United on April 16.

That opener will likely see the Sounders employ a two-forward formation as Schmetzer has hinted at numerous times. The exact look is a work in progress though, and could see the Sounders employ a 3-5-2, a 4-4-2 diamond, or something in between.

“I haven’t decided exactly, but it will be some version of a two-forward set to start the year,” Schmetzer said. “There’s pluses with going with 3-5-2 or 4-4-2 diamond. There’s a lot of numbers that could go up on a chalkboard, [but] we are just trying to figure out what works out on the grass. We definitely want to utilize Will [Bruin], Raul [Ruidiaz] and Fredy [Montero] because with the loss of Jordan, we’ve got to make sure we pick up some goals from somewhere.”

One of the early frustrations in seeing how those formations could play out has been the delay of the return of Ruidiaz, who has been training in Peru while awaiting resolution of his green card application. The Sounders appeared to get a couple of early gifts this year, with CONMEBOL postponing World Cup qualification, and the news of the aforementioned green card, which will grant the Sounders an additional international slot. But the process has been slow, and Ruidiaz remains away from training.

“Raul is a pretty good pro,” Schmetzer said. “He’s a forward [and] he’ll find his rhythm. But there are some frustrations there because of the different tactics of playing with two forwards, we’d love to have him here. But he’ll pick it up fairly quickly.”

Even with the adjusted preseason schedule and absences, Schmetzer doesn’t believe the Sounders are behind in their preparations, and he expects that things will pick up very soon. “We’ve had one intersquad scrimmage, and the next [game] is going to be [Tacoma] Defiance and then we’ve got a game against Portland,” Schmetzer said. “I would say we are on course. The games, we’ll have a lot of feedback. We’ll watch the tape and video and see what we see on the field. That will provide a lot of questions, and hopefully we’ll have the answers.”

NOTES:

  • Schmetzer said the preseason scheduling change, which will now have the Sounders staying in Seattle for the remainder of preseason, was due mostly to the season opener being on Friday evening, as opposed to the expected Saturday or Sunday. “The main driver was being able to control that we will play these games on a more appropriate schedule in the buildup to that first game against Minnesota,” he noted.
  • If the Sounders do go with a 3-5-2 formation, Schmetzer said they’d likely bring an additional fullback or two. “I would think we would need to have some other players in the pipeline, if that were to be the case,” Schmetzer said.
  • Updated preseason roster: 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, Fredy Montero, Jordan Morris#, Trey Muse#, Nouhou, Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez, Shane O’Neill, Spencer Richey, Alex Roldan, Cristian Roldan, Kelyn Rowe, Raúl Ruidíaz, Taka Sasaki*, Brad Smith

# Out on loan

+ Tacoma Defiance player

* Sounders FC Academy player

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