SEATTLE — With most of their projected starters still not with the team, the Seattle Sounders took the opportunity to play their first scrimmage of the preseason and get an extended look at some of the younger players on the roster.
The 45-minute exercise featured one team that could charitably be called a B-team of first-team players, while the other featured mostly Defiance and Sounders Academy players.
The Sounders-heavy team lined up in a 4-2-3-1 that looked about like this: Stefan Frei; Brad Smith, AB Cissoko, Jackson Ragen, Cody Baker; Obed Vargas, Kelyn Rowe; Leó Chu, Albert Rusnak, Dylan Teves; Will Bruin.
The Defiance-heavy team lined up in what looked a bit more like a 4-4-2 diamond: Stefan Cleveland; Joe Hafferty; Eric Kinzner, Hal Uderitz, Ethan Dobbelaere; Reed Baker-Whiting, Sota Kitahara, Juan Alvarez, John-Ryan Jeremiah; Michael Luande, Sam Adeniran.
Both teams looked about how you’d expect less than a week into preseason training, but the Defiance-heavy squad looked a bit more spry and ended up winning 2-0 behind goals from Adeniran and Hafferty, who also provided the assist on the first goal.
“From a fitness perspective, it was good,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said. “From the eye test, I thought they worked hard. But it looked like their first go-around of preseason.”
- Almost right from the opening kick, Teves was put into the space on the right wing and picked out Rusnák with a low cut-back near the top of the penalty area. Rusnák made decent contact but hit it right at Cleveland.
- The Defiance-heavy squad’s first look came when Hafferty delivered an early cross from relatively deep and picked out Adeniran at the back post. Adeniran’s sliding shot easily beat Frei for a 1-0 lead.
- The final score came off the foot of Hafferty. Baker-Whiting made a good run into the box to receive a cross from Ray Serrano and then an even better back-heel into the path of Hafferty, who roofed his left-footed shot.
Who’s Joe Hafferty?
Hafferty grew up in Renton and came through the Sounders Academy before playing four years at Oregon State. He was selected in the second round of the 2021 MLS SuperDraft and acquired in a trade with Inter Miami.
The 23-year-old played along the backline for the Defiance last year, making nine appearances. This might be a make-or-break year for him, at least as far as his future with the Sounders goes. He’s not generally regarded as a high-upside player, but could provide depth at several positions.
- Raúl Ruidíaz was, once again, present at training but is “on his own timeline,” according to Schmetzer, and did not feature in the scrimmage.
- Jimmy Medranda continues to be limited to work off to the side.
- Josh Atencio made his first training camp appearance, but like Danny Leyva a day earlier, never got out of his warm-ups.
- That leaves Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez as the last first-team player who remains unaccounted for. Schmetzer did not give a timeline or reason for Ocampo-Chavez’s absence but did say that the attacker would likely open the season with the Defiance.
- Schmetzer hinted that at least one other first-team player would likely be going out on loan. The most obvious candidate for something like that is probably Ethan Dobbelaere. The 19-year-old has played as a midfielder for most of his career, but transitioned to wingback last season. He played nearly 1,000 minutes in 2021, but less than 200 of those came with the Sounders. He’s probably not quite ready to contribute at the MLS level and might benefit from playing in the USL Championship, as opposed to MLS Next Pro.
- This was the Sounders’ final training session before they depart for Tucson, Ariz. on Sunday. They’ll be there until Feb. 1.