Sounders in the Sunshine State

The Sounders held their first of ten training sessions in Florida and will also play four matches beginning Monday.

Last year when the Sounders FC started the Florida portion of their training camp, they were joined by a new face that changed their season in Mauro Rosales.

This time around, they didn’t have any tricks up their sleeves as they arrived in Bradenton, Florida, on Sunday and held their first training session on Monday.  It was all business though, as they continue to build toward their first match on March 7 against Santos Laguna in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League.

After a full day of travel on Sunday, the team was greeted by sunny, but chilly conditions for Monday’s morning session, though the conditions are expected to warm up over the course of their 10 days in Florida.

With the slew of great pitches to play on and a set-up conducive to team bonding, it gives the coaching staff everything they could hope for in training camp.

“It’s a good training environment,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said.

This is Seattle’s second trip to Florida for preseason training after they came to the Sunshine State last year, going 2-1-1 in their four matches.

The team will have a game-intensive schedule this year with five games total over the 12 days they are in Florida and Mexico.  They will get things started quickly with their first match Monday against Orlando City SC, who won the USL Pro Commissioner’s Cup for the best regular season record and USL Pro championship in 2011.

With that schedule, the focus goes from the fitness-heavy portion of the schedule in Casa Grande, Arizona, to an atmosphere focused on getting players acquainted with each other on and off the field in game-simulated environments.

That is a welcome change to the players, who have spent the vast majority of the preseason facing off with each other so far.

“You want to practice your tackles and get stuck in and go in hard, but when it’s your teammates, you don’t want to go in that hard,” defender Marc Burch said.  “It’s nice to have someone else to do it against.”

While the players look forward to the challenge of a new opponent, the coaches look forward to seeing how the players respond to game situations.

That could mean anything from seeing what center back combinations work well to how well the outside back complements the outside midfielder.

“You always look forward to games,” Schmid said.  “Our emphasis now is on the games and to get a lot of out of the tactical side of the game.”

The match against Orlando City kicks off at 1 pm Pacific Time at the IMG Academy, with a live blog to follow the action at SoundersFC.com.

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