Every year, every club has turnover in Major League Soccer.
However, that was particularly prominent on Saturday when Sounders FC opened training for the 2014 season with just 14 returning players among the over 30 players in the first session. Six new players came in trades and another three came as Homegrown talent or through the MLS SuperDraft, while the remaining players were unsigned draft picks and non-roster invitees.
That made for a spirited session on Saturday as Seattle began the grind toward the opening match on March 8.
“I think it’s good to bring new faces into the roster because it brings new enthusiasm into the team,” Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “That spirit is great and it becomes infectious.”
Those new players were greeted with over 100 supporters signing and waving flags during training, and offering personal words of support afterward as players returned to the locker rooms. While that support has become old hat for many veteran Sounders players, it was an eye-opening experience for some of the new players and a reminder of what it means to play in Seattle.
“I’ve never experienced something like this for a training session,” said Kenny Cooper, a veteran of seven MLS seasons with FC Dallas, the Portland Timbers and New York Red Bulls. “It says a lot about the fans and their commitment to the team. As a player, it’s an incredible honor to be a part of it.”
Added Tristan Bowen, who played the last three seasons with Chivas USA, “It just goes to show you how great the fans are here and that they’ll really stand behind the team through thick and thin.”
The new players used Saturday’s session to start to get to know their new teammates and coaches while continuing to get acclimated to their new environs in Seattle.
That meant long sleeves and chattering teeth for Bowen, a lifelong Californian, in the frosty conditions on the foggy January day. But also a new beginning for the five-year MLS veteran who previously played with the LA Galaxy and Chivas USA.
“It’s very exciting for me. I think Seattle is one of the best places to be in the league,” he said. “It’s exciting to be part of a great organization and I’m looking forward to this year and great things with this team.”
Over the course of the offseason, Seattle brought in players from around the league at various positions around the field.
On the offensive side, Cooper and Chad Barrett bring a pair of veteran scorers along with Bowen, who already has five years in the league at just 22 years of age.
Already boasting world-class talents in Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins and an emerging goalscorer in Lamar Neagle, Cooper is looking to bolster that attack with his 72 career goals.
“Within this team, there is a lot of great attacking talent,” said Cooper, who had 18 goals in the 2012 season with the New York Red Bulls. “I’m excited to be a part of that and I hope to make good contributions and bring the best out of their game too.”
Defensively, there is new goalkeeper Stefan Frei, who will compete with Marcus Hahnemann for the starting goalkeeper spot, and defenders Jalil Anibaba and Chad Marshall, potentially making for a new trio of goalkeepers and center backs.
For Marshall, who played 10 seasons with the Columbus Crew, cohesiveness of that group isn’t of vital concern this early in training camp, but will be harvested over the course of the preseason.
“We’ll have plenty of games in Tucson and Charleston to build that chemistry,” Marshall said. “I think you can get an understanding down pretty quickly and be ready to go for the start of the season.”
After two training sessions on Saturday, Seattle will take Sunday off, then undergo fitness testing on Monday and Tuesday before departing for Tucson for the next leg of training camp.