Fitness, opportunities for young players emerge as two key themes in Sounders’ first preseason match of 2024

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It didn’t take long for the first goal of the Seattle Sounders’ preseason to happen… but it didn’t happen the way they would have liked.

Less than 30 seconds into the preseason friendly vs. TSC Bačka Topola on Wednesday at the Marbella Football Center, the Sounders were caught behind and fell into a 1-0 deficit.

“Our guys weren’t ready, their guys were ready,” said Head Coach Brian Schmetzer. “We think it’s a training game, they think it’s life or death. It’s a lesson there.”

The Rave Green eventually found their groove, though, finishing with a 3-2 win that was essentially split into a pair of 60-minute scrimmages. 

The first hour resulted in a 1-1 scoreline, while the second scrimmage resulted in a 2-1 win. Overall, it was a solid performance for the first action of preseason. 

“Our opponent from Serbia was a good team,” said Schmetzer. “It was a good test and I am glad we came through at the end. Credit to the guys to persevere.”

After the early deficit, the Sounders settled into the match and had a handful of chances. Cristian Roldan was active early and often, often combining with his brother, Alex, on the right flank. But it was Tacoma Defiance forward Georgi Minoungou who scored the equalizer after Raúl Ruidíaz’s shot took a bounce off the opposing goalkeeper’s hands and Minoungou was at the goal line to knock it home.

Despite a handful of other looks, the Sounders couldn’t find the breakthrough and the scoreline remained 1-1 for the big lineup change at the hour mark.

Dylan Teves put the Sounders up 2-1 off an assist from Léo Chú, then Bačka tied the game after sneaking a shot past Jacob Castro. The game-winning goal came in the 120th minute, though, as Chú recorded his second assist of the afternoon on a counterattack alongside Jordan Morris and Albert Rusnák. Chu’s cross was directed for Morris in front of goal, but the Mercer Island native left it for Rusnák, who scored in the match’s final moments.

“I saw Albert come behind me and I saw there was a defender at my back,” said Morris. “It would have been a difficult finish, so I just let it go to him and obviously he had a great finish.” 

These early preseason matches are crucial for building fitness, plus the opportunity to apply tactics and drills from the training ground in Spain. The squad has now been in Marbella for one week and the spirit remains high.

“I think the group has done a really good job at this camp,” said Morris. “The vibes have been really good. People have been working hard, training hard. For them to tie it up and for us to come back and get a goal, just to persevere through what was going on, that was big. That happens through the course of the season, so it’s important to get those games in during the preseason.”

Wednesday’s lineups featured a blend of experienced players, newcomers, and youngsters. The second match featured a very young backline that included teenage First Teamer Stuart Hawkins, newcomer Jonathan Bell, and MLS SuperDraft selections Tino Lopez and Kalani Kossa-Rienzi. 

“We had a lot of good, young players out there today getting their first minutes with the jersey on, so that was fun to see,” said Morris. “A lot of them have bright futures ahead of them.”

The squad will take it light on Thursday before another couple training sessions ahead of the next scrimmage vs. IFK Norrköping on Sunday at the same location.



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