The Sounders head to Casa Grande for first preseason trip

The Sounders head to Casa Grande for first preseason trip

The club is looking to gain a great deal from the initial portion of its 2013 preseason.

Sounders FC goalkeeper Michael Gspurning summed up the plan for training this week in Casa Grande, Arizona, about as easily as anyone could.

Now in his second season with the Sounders, Gspurning spent time in Casa Grande last year and knows what to expect when the Sounders head there on Tuesday for the second phase of training camp.

“Training, eat, sleep.  Training, eat, sleep.  Training, eat, sleep.  Training, eat, maybe a half-day off,” the Austrian goalkeeper quipped on Monday.

The schedule sounds tedious, but part of the design behind going to Grande Sports World in Casa Grande is to keep the focus on getting fit for the season, which opens March 2 when the Sounders FC hosts the Montreal Impact in the first match on the MLS calendar.

There are many advantages to training in the Arizona facility, including the weather.

Although a fountain did freeze over when the Sounders trained at Grande Sports World in 2010, that week was the exception to the rule of clear, sunny skies in February for training camp.

This year, the temperatures are expected to reach the 70s throughout the trip – a welcome sign to the Sounders after they opened training camp to freezing temperatures in Tukwila.

“It’s always good to practice in a t-shirt and shorts,” midfielder Servando Carrasco said.

The team hotel is situated a short walk across the campus away from the training room and the training field.  The training room is attached to a fitness center that players can use in their free time and enables fitness coach Dave Tenney to schedule gym sessions with the team and set players up with additional work for players that need it.

That convenience is hard to match and is ideal while the club is building fitness for a grueling season.

“It’s an opportunity to stay focused,” Carrasco said.  “There’s nothing around there, so in those terms, it serves its purpose to get to know everyone and to train twice a day in probably the best facilities that we can train at is going to be good for us preparing for the match on March 2.”

While training at home, it can be easy to fall into a routine that includes many things off the soccer field.  By getting away to a remote locale, it takes many of those distractions out of the equation and players – and coaches, for that matter, can keep their attention squarely on the task each day.

“For the guys with families, they can focus and get away and concentrate on working out,” Schmid said.

There is a golf course attached to the Francisco Grande Resort Hotel in Casa Grande, but otherwise, the team is a long stretch of road removed from the city itself.  That leaves them plenty of time to get acquainted with their teammates – some of whom they are meeting for the first time.

In previous years, that has meant rookie skits at one of the team dinners, as well as introductions to each new player.

“It’s a little bit of team-building as well,” Schmid said.  “Getting away for a little bit of time is good for the team.”

2013 will mark the fourth consecutive year that the Sounders will train in Casa Grande.

In that time, they have developed a familiarity with the facilities and that awareness is reciprocated by the staff, who have customized some elements to fit the needs of the club with each visit.

The club is scheduled to arrive on Tuesday evening and begin training on Wednesday morning.  Their first game, however, will be in Tucson on February 5 against the Portland Timbers.

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