SEATTLE — Matchday minus-1 — or the day before the game in layman’s terms — is usually used for refinement. Early in the season, the Seattle Sounders will often hold this session at Lumen Field ahead of a home game, just to get everyone comfortable.
Friday’s session was pretty standard in that sense, with there being a few short-sided games, followed by some finishing drills and some run throughs on set-pieces.
These finishing drills were a treat, though. Héber, Raúl Ruidiaz and Fredy Montero were putting on a particular show, seemingly trying to one-up each other. Ruidíaz’s most audacious attempt came in a short-sided game when he volleyed a pass from Stefan Frei off the crossbar, a motion so quick it was hard to comprehend what he had just done. Héber and Montero, meanwhile, were taking turns taking crosses on full and half-volleys, making it look far too easy.
It was a fitting end to a week where training sessions all seemed to have plenty of energy despite the rather cold conditions.
“It was a good week, especially after that win,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said, alluding to the Sounders 4-0 win over the Colorado Rapids. “Guys are in good moods.
“The other thing that has me in a good mood is you saw Raúl taking shots. We had a conversation, he went through testing and he’ll be available for the match.”
Barring a rather significant surprise, Ruidíaz will almost certainly not start, however. Ruidíaz has struggled with muscle injuries dating back to 2021 and the Sounders seem more than happy to bring him along slowly, especially on the back of Héber’s standout performance in the season-opener.
Even if only available off the bench, Ruidíaz’s return is notable.
“Raúl’s been good since he’s been here, won us a lot of games,” Schmetzer said. “He’s a good pro. He wants to be on the field, he wants to be with his teammates, he’s always been good with the young guys. I think that’s a big part of his life.”
The knock-on effect of Ruidíaz being available is that it makes it that much harder for the young attacking talent to even get into the gameday roster. In the season opener, the Sounders were able to give minutes to the likes of Josh Atencio, Leó Chú, Danny Leyva and Dylan Teves. It’s entirely possible at least one of them won’t even be available against RSL through no real fault of their own.
“It raises the level of training, it raises the level of the young players to see what the senior players do,” Schmetzer said. “It’s a good problem to have.”
Although several first-teamers were not at Lumen Field — presumably they were with the Tacoma Defiance for their first preseason match later in the day — that only made the presence of several non-first-teamers more notable. Those were goalkeepers Wallis Lapsley and Wyatt Nelson and centerback Stuart Hawkins, who just returned from the Concacaf U17 Championships, where he helped the USA to a second-place finish that earned them a spot in the upcoming U17 World Cup.
“He looks good,” Schmetzer said about Hawkins. “He’s growing and he’s filling out ... he was skinny as a rail. He’s put some pounds on, looks stronger. Kid’s not bad.”