Shane Evans

Ahead of second preseason trip Sounders in good shape physically

The club is in good condition physically and eager to move on to second preseason trip in Charleston.

In 2013, Leo Gonzalez and Mauro Rosales had their healthiest seasons in MLS. Rosales appeared in all but one regular season match, starting 26 times for his most fit season in his three years with Sounders FC, while Gonzalez matched his five-year MLS best with 27 starts.

Seeing that success in longevity, Sounders FC Manager of Performance and Sports Science David Tenney decided to make a slight change to his approach to the team in training camp this year. Gonzalez and Rosales spent the early portion of preseason last year working in longer distances and lower speeds in their workouts and that proved beneficial in the grueling season.

“Some of the analysis we did last year showed that the guys that covered the lower velocity work in the first part of preseason were more injury-resistant over the year, so we tried to mirror that across the board,” Tenney said.

The result has been a stronger Sounders FC team as it makes the final transition into match fitness in the last portion of training camp with a trip to Charleston, SC. Seattle will play three matches in the Carolina Challenge Cup against the Charleston Battery, Houston Dynamo and D.C. United and one additional training game against the College of Charleston.

Over the first few weeks of camp, the team as a whole covered much more ground – 15-25 kilometers each, according to Tenney – and now have moved into more explosive workouts to more closely resemble game situations. As a result, the team’s fitness testing has shown a 5-10 percent increase in aerobic values since the beginning of camp.

“As you get close to the games, you want to start matching the intensity of the games,” Tenney said. “Once we get down to Charleston, it will be more game-recovery-game-recovery, we can’t do as much of the high-velocity stuff, so we are doing that from now to Thursday.”

Another factor for Seattle has been an increase in the offseason workout participation. In the final weeks before training camp, Tenney oversees optional gym workouts and the involvement and commitment from the players has proven valuable.

“I’m really happy with where guys are at,” Tenney said. “You hope that guys take the advice and lessons on board and this was probably the most participation we’ve had in the optional conditioning sessions.”

Because the team has collectively come into camp so fit, the transition to match play has gone smoothly. In the Tucson leg of training camp, many players played 60-minute spells and they matched that in some intrasquad scrimmaging in training on Saturday. In the Carolina Challenge Cup, those minutes will continue to increase and by the final match against D.C. United on March 1, Tenney expects that everybody will be able to play 90 minutes.

Sounders FC departs for South Carolina on Wednesday and will play its first match on Saturday against the Battery.