As preseason matches begin, Sounders coming together

As preseason matches begin, Sounders coming together

A successful first preseason match shows signs of a good start to the year.

TUCSON, ARIZ. – Sounders FC had its first preseason test on Wednesday against San Jose, downing the Earthquakes, 2-1, behind two goals from Obafemi Martins.

“I was happy with where we’re at. I thought the first group played well, created some good opportunities for themselves and I was happy with the movement of the ball,” Schmid said.

With five likely starters unavailable for various reasons, Seattle still put together a talented group in the first half of the match, though one that was filled with a combination of returning players and newcomers to the Rave Green.

The transition was smooth on Wednesday as Sounders FC controlled the offensive flow of the match and was rewarded when Martins broke through for two goals just two minutes apart. On the defensive side, goalkeeper Stefan Frei made one big save to keep San Jose scoreless behind the top defense in the first half.

“It was great to get some minutes under our belts and gel and finally play against an opponent and I thought we did fairly decent,” said Frei, who played the last five seasons with Toronto FC. “It’s so important for everybody to find each other’s tendencies. It’s all good to try and practice that, but it’s a different kind of environment when you do that against an opponent.”

On the defensive side, only one player who saw significant time in Seattle last year got the start, with Djimi Traore starting alongside longtime Columbus Crew center back Chad Marshall, former Chicago Fire defender Jalil Anibaba on the right and second-year Sounder Dylan Remick on the left.

Because that core has only been together for two weeks, communication proved key.

“We have guys that know what’s expected and have seen lots of situations and I think everybody stepped up in terms of communication,” Frei said. “I think we all realize that if you communicate well and you organize well, that limits the opponents’ chances and makes your job easier as a whole.”

In the front six, Seattle saw similar success, particularly in the combination play between Martins and Kenny Cooper.

“It was good. They were able to combine with each other. Kenny was able to open the game up with some good balls out to Lamar (Neagle) and some good balls out to (Tristan) Bowen,” Schmid said. “I thought Ozzie’s passing was very good today as well. Then Oba does what Oba’s supposed to do, which is finish the opportunities when they’re there and he did that very well.”

In the second half, Seattle allowed a late goal, but Schmid was pleased with the performances of some young players seeking opportunities, namely Damion Lowe, Jimmy Ockford and Michael Azira.

Seattle continues a run of four preseason matches in five days with a match against Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Thursday in Casa Grande, Ariz.

Clint Dempsey remains on loan with Fulham in London through the end of the month. Brad Evans and DeAndre Yedlin are expected to join the team in training on Thursday. Leo Gonzalez is recovering from offseason groin surgery and Marco Pappa has completed just four training sessions since arriving in Arizona on Saturday.

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