Hello! Similar to long trips the team has done for preseason (and that Orlando bubble…), I’ll be updating a daily journal to keep you in the loop on all things Sounders from the ground in Spain and Morocco. Enjoy!
Day 14, February 3
6:15 pm in Morocco
One more day until we’re underway! The content crew took Brad Evans on a local excursion, with stops at Cap Spartel and Hercules Caves, in addition to a camel ride on the beach. It was an amazing way to experience the country.
In the evening, the team trained in the stadium where we will be playing tomorrow’s match. And with that, the 2023 preseason has come to an end… Let’s do this.
Day 13, February 2
11:05 pm in Morocco
Whew, what a day. After our last training session in Marbella, we boarded the buses and drove to the airport in Malaga. Our flight was less than an hour long and suddenly we were in Morocco! The greeting at the airport was incredible, with an array of snacks and drinks available for us. The warm welcome continued at the hotel, where there was a musical performance in the lobby. With dancing and smiles all around, you could tell the whole team loved it.
Day 12, February 1
11:34 p.m. in Spain
I can’t believe it, but it’s our last full day in Spain! FC Dallas has also started their preseason at Marbella Football Center, so it’s been fun to see some familiar MLS faces around the facility the last couple of days. For training, our guys played a full 11v11 followed by a session of penalties. In this tournament, we go straight to penalties after 90 minutes so the shooters and keepers are both trying to stay fresh. One fun note, it was an interesting night at dinner because the whole team and staff watched the opening round of the Club World Cup in our meal room. It’s still surreal we will be there on Saturday.
Day 11, January 31
12:48 p.m. in Spain
The countdown is officially on. After yesterday’s off day, the stakes were raised at training today as we inch closer to Saturday’s match. We will find out our Second Round opponent tomorrow, then the team is off to Tangier on Thursday. Notably, Danny Leyva has joined us after spending the last couple weeks with the U.S. U-20s in Florida.
Day 10, January 30
11:14 p.m. in Spain
With less than a week to go until the FIFA Club World Cup, the team enjoyed their first full off day of the trip. The guys did a variety of different things, such hitting the golf course to having a spa day to shopping in nearby Puerto Bánus. I joined the golf crew for a few holes and Cristian Roldan spilled the beans on the best golfers on the team… turns out Stef Cleveland is #1, with Preki and Jackson Ragen not too far behind.
Day 9, January 29
10:02 p.m. PT in Spain
We slowed it down a bit today, with the guys having a regen session to focus on recovery in the late morning. After a relaxing afternoon, we all went out to dinner to a nice restaurant and enjoyed a meal together. There was also live music happening at the restaurant, and the moment the musician walked into our room while singing “Viva La Vida” a big group of players hyped him up by using their napkins as rally towels, followed by cell phone flashlights waved in unison. Just an overall great night with the squad.
Day 8, January 28
6:45 p.m. PT in Spain
A whole bunch of soccer today! The squad played a pair of friendlies, first against Wolfsberger and the second versus Hammarby. The setting was exquisite, with hardly a cloud in the sky and an epic backdrop of La Concha. The first match ended in a 0-0 draw, while Hammarby won the next one 3-2. Goals were scored by Fredy Montero and Defiance player Georgi Minoungou, while João Paulo played 45 minutes in his return from injury. A full recap of the matches can be found HERE. After that, we got back to the hotel and the players had a players-only BBQ and the rest of the evening off. The media crew and equipment managers met up with our medical staff for a lovely dinner in Old Town.
Day 7, January 27
3:12 p.m. in Spain
We’ve reached the part of the trip where it’s starting to turn into a blur. The routine of team meals, going to the training ground, then hanging around at the hotel is getting pretty monotonous. We’re all looking forward to changing it up a bit over the weekend, starting with a pair of friendlies tomorrow. The highlight of today’s training was courtesy of Léo Chú, who scored a jaw-dropping goal then followed it up with a slick assist a couple minutes later. The training session wrapped up with a shooting drill, where Raúl Ruidíaz put on a clinic and even Nouhou rifled one in with his right foot.
I also asked João Paulo if he would shave his heard if we won FIFA Club World Cup. He said no.
Day 6, January 26
6:36 p.m. in Spain
By far the most entertaining part of training today actually occurred after the team finished, with the staff competing in a 9v9, short-field soccer match. The rosters included the assistant coaches, medical staff, equipment staff, and yes, even the media team, and we played a wildly entertaining (and as Yeimar described, catastrophic) pickup game. The team led by Andy Rose and Freddy Juarez got the win, as a group of players even waited after their training to watch all the chaos ensue. This evening at the hotel we’re doing a trivia night hosted by Kelyn Rowe, and I am quite curious to see which assigned team of players/staff takes home the victory. Just an overall competitive day over here in Marbella.
Day 5, January 25
2:46 p.m. in Spain
After a thunderstorm swept through the region last night, we woke up to a dusting of snow at the top of La Concha. One of the workers at our hotel said that this is a rare occurrence that usually happens once every five years or so. And by the afternoon, the snow was gone! Today marks the first double training session, with the morning practice focusing on shooting drills and even some 11-v-11 work. One notable play featured Leo Chú charging down the left flank on a counter, passing to Nico Lodeiro in the middle, and a clean finish from Raúl Ruidíaz for the goal.
Day 4, January 24
5:55 p.m. in Spain
We had our first taste of Seattle Sunshine today with most of our early afternoon training session occurring in the rain. The squad focused on a short-field drills today, including my favorite where Assistant Coach Andy Rose feeds a ball onto the field, which starts a fast-paced two-v-two game that also features a goalkeeper on either side. Cristian Roldan and Fredy Montero are two players who I love to watch during this one. Overall I've been really impressed with the Marbella Football Center, which has a handful of great grass fields and a weight room on site for the team's post-training gym sessions.
Day 3, January 23
8:11 a.m. in Spain
What a start to the day! After a jet legged and restless night, I went for a walk this morning around the hotel grounds and caught an amazing sunrise. Our hotel is perched above Marbella with stunning views of the Alboran Sea and La Concha, the highest mountain in the region.
5:13 p.m. in Spain
Our first training session of the week started with a rousing game of Head Catch, a Sounders preseason tradition that is basically a chaotic version of handball, involving two balls on the field at all times and scores that can only be counted by headers. My MVP performances included a full-field counterattack goal by Alex Roldan (assists to Nico Lodeiro and Albert Rusnák) and a Herculean goalkeeper performance by Jordan Morris. After a light training and a gym session, the guys called it a day.
Day 1-2 (Travel Day)
12:25 p.m. in Seattle - Saturday
We are Marbella bound! Amidst snow flurries at SeaTac that turned to rain by the time we took off, the squad departed for Spain.
While a few team staffers and coaches remain from our last trip to Spain in 2010 preseason, the entire group is looking forward to the massive opportunity at hand with the upcoming FIFA Club World Cup.
My movies on the 10+ hour flight to Paris: Don’t Worry Darling, Elvis, and Arrival.
3:34 p.m. in Spain - Sunday
What day is it again? We flew into Malaga, Spain then took a bus to our hotel in Marbella, which was about 45 minutes away. Driving on the highway along the coast was stunning, especially in the sunshine. We got to the hotel, had lunch, and relaxed for the afternoon.
We’ll take it easy tonight, then tomorrow will be our first full day on site.