TUCSON, Ariz. – The Sounders are now two preseason games away from their season opening match against the Montreal Impact on March 2. On Wednesday, they finished off the round robin portion of the Desert Diamond Cup with a 2-0 win over the New York Red Bulls and afterward, Marcus Hahnemann had plenty to say about the game.
So we turn to him for four things we learned from the victory.
Dreaming of a white First Kick
Each club uses preseason to help prepare the team for things they may face during the year. They work to get their fitness up and in the meantime ensure that they can think on their feet even when they are tired. On Wednesday, the Sounders also got a chance to test themselves in inclement weather as it was snowing in Tucson while there was a blizzard warning in the nearby canyons.
Hahnemann, who played most of his professional career in England, had no problem adjusting to the flakes falling from the sky though.
“You know the ball is going to skip a little bit … but it’s England,” he smiled. “I felt at home. I was warming up in a t-shirt before the game. Everybody’s got hats and gloves on. You just have to embrace it. If you do that, you’re fine. It just felt like another game in the middle of winter in England.”
Adjusting on the fly
With three games in four days and head coach Sigi Schmid looking to use his starting lineup on Friday against Veracruz to help them prepare for the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal matchup with Tigres UANL, the lineup on Wednesday was a mixture of young reserves looking to cement playing time and their spot on the depth chart and non-roster players vying for a roster spot.
Even still, though things were shaky to start, the Sounders were able to navigate the first half and get organized in time to nab a 1-0 lead and hold on to it until they turned to the regular starting group for the final half-hour.
“We had a really young team out again and guys on trial showing what they can do. It’s tough when you’re playing with a back four that’s as young as we were, but they did well again,” Hahnemann said. “We kept another clean sheet and kept most of their chances from a good distance away.”
Improving with time
Hahnemann is quick to point out the struggles of the team that took the field on February 5 in their first preseason match against the Portland Timbers, when they were still able to stay within a goal despite playing mostly reserves against a team that had already played two matches at that point.
When they were good on Wednesday, they were close to midseason form, keeping the ball in possession for long periods with the group of regular starters on the field, but also navigating through the stormy seas with the group of reserves.
“Our first game against Portland, we were all over the place. I wasn’t very happy and we just keep getting better every game. We keep changing it and we’re doing well,” Hahnemann said. “I think we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.”
Mario is a special player
On two occasions, Mario Martinez cracked hard shots in the direction of Luis Robles’ net. On one, Robles was able to make the stop, but in the 78th minute, he had no chance.
In the 78th minute a Mauro Rosales cross was deflected, then cleared into the air, but it fell to the feet of Martinez at the top of the box. There, he volleyed a thundering shot where no one could reach it and put it through for the goal and an equally entertaining reaction from Hahnemann.
“Right before that, I was talking to Sammy and he hit a shot and I said, ‘His left foot is so sexy.’ You just love it,” he said. “It’s a great strike. A ball up in the air like that … to get it on frame is one thing, but to get it off the post and in is a little bit special.”
The Sounders will train on Thursday afternoon, then return to the field at Kino Sports Complex for a friendly match with Veracruz from Mexico before Saturday’s championship match in the Desert Diamond Cup against Real Salt Lake.