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Training Camp Notebook: The boys are back in town

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Seattle Sounders returned to formal training, but about a third of the roster was absent.

Not-quite-official Sounder Will Bruin, Defiance player Randy Mendoza, and new DP Albert Rusnák during the first day of training.
Sounders FC Communications / Lindsey Wasson

TUKWILA, Wash. — The long, dark offseason is over. Seattle Sounders took the field for training on Friday, prepping for their Concacaf Champions League match that’s just about a month away with the MLS season only six weeks out. Only 52 days since they failed to advance in the playoffs, this is still second longest offseason of the Schmetzer era, much shorter than the 2018-2019 gap of 75 days. As has been true for too many years, the Covid-19 pandemic continues to impact minor things like training camp schedules.

Additionally, several players in the area were absent due to Health & Safety Protocols. Media remains separated from the players by an additional dozen or so yards, there are masking and vaccination requirements, too. Another group of players are on team-approved absences resting in their home countries and a third group is away on national team duty.

Through all of those complications the normality of players in training-top blue kicking a ball signaled that spring is just around the corner.

Schmetzer confirms the 4-2-3-1

During his first media availability of 2022 head coach Brian Schmetzer said that the team will likely shift back to a version of a 4-2-3-1, at least when everyone is healthy and present. That may not be true for the first match of the year. His goal is to get all 3 DPs, Jordan Morris, João Paulo, and Cristian Roldan on the field at once.

The squad’s familiarity with the 3-4-2-1 will offer the coaching staff an opportunity to do other things. He also mentioned that he’d rather end the year on a 13-game-unbeaten run than start the season with one. This statement jammed into the discussion of formations and player availability might mean the early season has more variance than the late season.

Stefan Frei ready for a new journey

Over the past 6 seasons Frei played an extra 30 matches between CCL, Leagues Cup, Open Cup, and MLS Cup Playoffs. Getting a chance to rest and recharge has been rare.

“[The offseason] felt longer, just because it is longer than we’re used to. I don’t know if that’s accurate in the terms of the days, but just the mental drain to make it all the way through the playoffs to the Finals, it’s draining. Obviously it’s what you want to do, but when you go through that you’re exhausted and the offseason is so short, you know you have to get away from it and get into your own pre-preseason pretty quickly to show up and be ready when the season does start. Definitely felt longer this time around.”

His pre-preseason involved getting a rowing machine at home (which likely came in handy during the snow and heavy rains).

Even with the absences of key talent, the knowledge that team leadership brought back 18 of the 19 most used players from 2021, have two former Best XI talents healthy, and added DP Albert Rusnák doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s more pressure on the team. The expectations for the Sounders are to always make the playoffs and compete for trophies.

Friday meant that journey starts again.

“Let’s get back on the horse and start a new journey — I'm pretty excited.”

Tacoma Defiance attends

While the returning 2022 roster for Defiance is still not official there were a half-dozen Tacoma players participating in first team training. A few others will be joining over the next week as well. Those that Sounder at Heart can confirm are practicing with the Sounders during Phase One of preseason are;

  • Juan Alvarez
  • Marlon Vargas, who spent time with El Salvador during the offseason
  • Sota Kitahara
  • Joe Hafferty
  • Ray Serrano
  • Cody Baker
  • Randy Mendoza
  • Jackson Ragen
  • Eric Kinzner

That is a very solid defense to return. Seattle does have two roster spots open for now, but both are for senior players. For one of those Defiance invitees to make the squad Lagerwey would need to bump a supplemental player into a senior slot, send a player on a full-season loan, or cut a player.

Head coach Wade Webber and his assistants were all part of the complete coaching staff.

Notes

  • Several not-quite-official players were in camp. Lagerwey said the roster is at 28 so fans should expect formal announcements soon.
  • Achille Robin and AB Cissoko chatted in French and connected quickly. A full story on Achille journey from small town France to Bowling Green, Ohio to Montlake is coming.
  • Andy Rose was in coaches garb. The former Sounder is once again a Sounder, now as a coach. After a career playing in Seattle, Coventry, Motherwell, and Vancouver the ten-year pro’s career is over. Rose ends with just under 19,000 competitive minutes, a Supporters’ Shield, an Open Cup, an EFL trophy, and 3 time runner up on other majors. His joining the team full time was confirmed during the press conference.
  • Albert Rusnák is wearing 18.
  • Dylan Teves will wear 99.
  • There’s at least one unidentified trialist, a 4th keeper. Several Academy players who may or may not be under contract with Defiance also participated.