The Sounders FC had waited 77 days since their 2011 season ended at CenturyLink Field. Another night wasn’t going to hurt them any.
The club was slated to start training on Thursday morning at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton, Washington, but had to cancel the session because of hazardous weather and road conditions. So when they started on Friday at the indoor practice facility, it was with an eager anticipation of the start of a brand new season.
And while the calendar may have turned, the expectations in Seattle have not.
“You can tell, just by watching them today, the flow of the game was pretty good and I think guys know what they are capable of accomplishing this year,” head coach Sigi Schmid said. “As long as we go about our business well, we’re trying to get what we didn’t pick up this year.”
For the first time since the club originally started their first day of training in their inaugural season in 2009, the Sounders FC may have needed some name tags to keep players straight.
Nine players are gone from the 2011 team and the field was teeming with new players – veterans from MLS and abroad as well as non-roster players and recent draft picks.
However, those new faces were hardly unfamiliar with the mentality of the players returning from 2011.
“We are very hungry,” new goalkeeper Michael Gspurning said, noting a recent player-organized session that wound up being a 90-minute competition. “I really can say now, playing many years of professional soccer, this is really unbelievable.”
It was hardly a whole field of new players though. Back are all 11 of the club’s players who scored more than one goal in MLS play last season, including the club’s all-time leading scorer Fredy Montero, rising star midfielder Alvaro Fernandez, MLS Newcomer of the Year Mauro Rosales, two-time team MVP Osvaldo Alonso and a host of other attacking players that made the Sounders the top-scoring team in MLS in 2011.
“We know it’s going to be difficult to do what we did last year. But everybody is thinking to be the best this year,” Rosales said. “The past doesn’t count now. It’s a new season.”
Gone from that 2011 team are two of Seattle’s most vocal leaders as goalkeeper and captain Kasey Keller retired and the ubiquitous right back James Riley was taken in the expansion draft by the Montreal Impact and subsequently traded to Chivas USA. The veteran presences of forward Nate Jaqua, midfielder Pat Noonan and defender Taylor Graham are also absent from Seattle’s training camp, as Jaqua and Noonan left through the Re-Entry Draft and Graham joined Keller and goalkeeper Terry Boss in retirement.
In addition, Tyson Wahl, Erik Friberg and Miguel Montano will all don colors other than rave green after Wahl and Montano joined up with the Impact and Friberg was transferred to Malmo in his native Sweden.
In their place are Gspurning, left back Marc Burch, midfielder Christian Sivebæk and right back Adam Johansson, who was away with the Swedish National Team and is slated to join the Sounders when they conduct the second phase of training camp in Arizona beginning January 30. Add to that the seven players the Sounders selected in the MLS SuperDraft and Supplemental Draft and several more players on trial and there were plenty of reasons to scan the roster card on Friday.
“It’s the first day for everybody. Sivebæk scored a couple goals, showed he can shoot the ball, hit from distance. Burch, who is coming off foot surgery, as well, that’s why we wanted to be a little careful with him, for his first real practice coming off that. I thought he looked all right, spreading the ball around. I thought Gspurning was good,” Schmid said. “The young guys – the game was probably a little more hectic, but I thought there were some guys who had some good moments there, as well.”
Also absent from camp but slated to join the team later are defender Jeff Parke and midfielder Brad Evans, who are both with the US National Team and scheduled to rejoin the club in Arizona, and newly signed midfielder/forward Cordell Cato, who is expected to be in training on Saturday.
The Sounders will train through Satruday at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton before taking Sunday off. They plan to return to training at their training grounds at Starfire in Tukwila on Monday, weather permitting, before going to Casa Grande, Arizona on January 30.