TUKWILA — With just four weeks of preseason before their first competitive match, the Seattle Sounders are having to fast-forward a bit. While most of training is still focused on fitness, the team is already working in some tactical elements.
On Wednesday, that even featured some full-sided game play, something that wouldn’t normally be introduced this early in preseason.
Head coach Brian Schmetzer is keen to start introducing some new ideas after a year in which the Sounders missed the playoffs for the first time in their 14 MLS seasons.
“Teams had found us out,” Schmetzer said. “Teams knew how we played. We’ll work on different attacking movements and how we build.”
One other small change is something as simple as the appearance of the indoor training area. Without getting into details, Stefan Frei suggested some overdue sprucing up was done to the locker room and common areas where the players spend most of their off-field time together.
“Little changes like that change the vibe,” Frei said. “Those are little details that make everyone more hungry to get going.”
Injured midfielders on mend
Among the players who was a full participant in the full-field exercise was Obed Vargas, who missed the latter half of 2022 with a back injury. The 17-year-old looked strong in the center of the park, making several good tackles and spraying pinpoint passes to the wing. Similarly, João Paulo was deemed “ahead of schedule” by Schmetzer. Both seem well-positioned to be fully available in time for the Club World Cup opener on Feb. 4.
‘Logjam’ in midfield
The knock-on effect of those two players returning is that the Sounders suddenly have a glut of talented central midfielders. In addition João Paulo and Vargas, the Sounders must figure out the best way to maximize the talent of Josh Atencio, Danny Leyva and recently signed Homegrown Player Sota Kitahara.
“We have four really, really super talented midfielders in Obed, Josh, Danny and Sota,” Schmetzer said. “There is a logjam that we have to think about as a club as to what do we do with all these very talented young players and how we get the most of their development. Can some of them be loaned out? Can we sell some of them?
“We haven’t really sold players before. We have a surplus. What are we going to do with that surplus? It also makes my job harder.”