Today was the first day of training at Arizona's Grande Sports Worldin Casa Grande and the Sounders FC made the most of the brand new complex. They also welcomed five new faces to the fold as the second phase of training camp started.
The team had a 5:30 am departure from their facilities and left for their three-hour flight to Phoenix at 7:30 am. A one hour bus ride took them to Casa Grande where they finally checked in at 2 pm Arizona time. Suffice to say, it was a long day of travel and they still had a training scheduled for 4 pm.
In training, the team split into three groups for some small-field games that encouraged more attacking play. With rules limiting players to three touches the games forced play into the offensive half. As the groups adjusted to the rules, goals became more plentiful and head coach Sigi Schmid liked what he saw.
“It was good. When you get up early and have to fly down and everything’s new, nerves were there. And we had some new players out there. So we let them get a sweat and run around a little bit to get the edge off,” Schmid said.
Among the new faces were goalkeeper Derby Carillo, defender Eric Winblad, midfielders Josh Gardner and Yakir Lusky and forward Eddie Johnson. They joined a group that had already been together for seven training sessions at Starfire in Tukwila and the VMAC.
In the short-field drill, the orange team was built of Terry Boss, Taylor Graham, Tyrone Marshall, Jamel Wallace, Lamar Neagle, Nathan Sturgis, Stephen King, Gardner and Johnson.
In blue were Kasey Keller, Leo Gonzalez, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Winblad, Osvaldo Alonso, Sanna Nyassi, Lusky, Jarrod Smith and Fredy Montero.
And in yellow were Chris Eylander, Tyson Wahl, Patrick Ianni, James Riley, Brad Evans, Freddie Ljungberg, Roger Levesque and David Estrada.
When orange faced blue, the only goal came when Neagle snapped a ball toward the middle from the right corner and Johnson darted in front of Keller to redirect it in for the score, starting off Johnson’s trial with a bang.
After a scoreless game between orange and yellow, scoring picked up when yellow faced blue. Riley and Montero scored within two minutes of each other before Smith connected on a late game-winner.
“We accomplished what we wanted to do fitness-wise today,” Schmid said. “Right now I think we’re looking more for fitness than we were for quality and I think as we taper down, we’ll look a little more for quality.”
The Sounders will have morning and afternoon training session on Thursday as they continue the second phase of training camp in Arizona.