TUKWILA, Wash. – With the area finally starting to thaw from a week of below-freezing temperatures, the Seattle Sounders were able to close out their first week of preseason training by finally getting onto the grass pitch at Starfire Sports Complex.
The players seemed to appreciate the relatively balmy conditions and were all smiles when coming off the field.
“This is great,” Albert Rusnák told the media, contrasting to the two previous training days that were both wet and cold.
Rusnák has been one of the consistent standouts in the early stages of preseason and once again had several tidy finishes during small-sided games. Unlike the two previous seasons, where Rusnák opened the season being expected to play a deeper-lying role, the plan now seems to be for him to carry over his role from the end of 2023 where he was effectively playing as a No. 10. He scored four goals in his last seven starts as a No. 10.
"I feel like that’s where I had success when I first came to MLS," Rusnák said. "I’m hoping to be higher up the field and picking up where I left off last year."
Pedro de la Vega update
The Pedro de la Vega signing saga seems to truly be heading into its final days, with head coach Brian Schmetzer suggesting the Argentine attacker could be in town next week and will head to Spain with his new teammates.
"We’ll see what he’s all about," Schmetzer said when asked how de la Vega might fit into the attack. "We’ll figure it out. We have to get him here first."
Schmetzer then, unprompted, added: "There’s a rumor flying around that he might be here Monday or Tuesday."
Raúl Ruidíaz unleashed
Another consistent performer during the first week of training was Raúl Ruidíaz, who the Sounders are hopeful has finally put his injuries behind him.
"He is 100% fully fit," Schmetzer said. "There’s no restrictions. He’s ready to go."
Unlike previous preseasons, though, Ruidíaz's playing time is not guaranteed. He's currently locked in a competition with Jordan Morris to be the No. 9. More broadly, once de la Vega joins the fray there will be six MLS quality starters competing for four primarily attacking spots.
"A lot of years we came in and we knew what everything was," Schmetzer said. "There was competition, but this year there’s true competition."