Seattle Sounders make final preparations heading into first MLS game of the season


The time for preparation is almost complete. On Sunday, Feb. 26, the marathon officially begins as the Seattle Sounders kick off its 2023 MLS campaign with a Western Conference matchup against the Colorado Rapids at Lumen Field.

Opening day is always a special occasion, but homegrown winger Jordan Morris said this group is eager as ever to take the field, coming off a longer-than-usual offseason and a taste of competitive action earlier this month at the FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco.

"I think every time you start a new season you have those butterflies, that excitement," Morris said this week. "I think that's good, that's part of the fun of being a professional athlete is having that excitement, those nerves when you're stepping on the field."

"For me I'm just excited to play at home again. It's been a long time obviously for us not making the playoffs last year, it's been a long time since we've played a game at home. So I'm looking forward to that, looking forward to being out in front of our fans and putting on a show."

The Club World Cup experience afforded the Sounders a leg up in their fitness compared to a normal preseason, along with a high-level match that threw the players right into the deep end against Egyptian side Al Ahly in Morocco. 

The challenge in the days since the club's return stateside have been about keeping up that momentum. With the preseason schedule complete following a final scrimmage against USL Championship outfit Louisville City FC at Starfire Sports Complex, all eyes turn to the 34-match MLS campaign that will also include US Open Cup and Leagues Cup matches.

"The team seems to be in a good mood," Head Coach Brian Schmetzer said. "The messaging has been: It's been a bit of a long preseason, interrupted with the shortened trip to Morocco — we'd have liked to stay there longer."

"But it's here. Crunch time, money time. The season, it's here, so that's what we're focusing on and just making sure we fine-tune everything."

The status of star forward Raúl Ruidíaz has been one of the major storylines ahead of the season-opening matchup, as the Peruvian mends a hamstring knock he sustained during preseason.

Schmetzer didn't rule out the possibility that Ruidíaz could be cleared in time for Sunday's match, but should be limited or sidelined, it could give fans a first look at Brazilian striker Héber, who arrived over the offseason via trade from New York City FC.

The 31-year-old is a proven goal-scorer in MLS, with 24 goals in 70 games with the Cityzens before his cross-country move, qualities that Morris and Schmetzer each noted have been evident during preseason.

"Reminds me a little bit of \[Fredy\] Montero, that's why he and Fredy are good friends off the field," Schmetzer said. "They're class forwards. They score goals, so both of those two guys, in case Raul can't make it back, happy to have those guys on the squad."

Added Morris: "[Héber] is such a quality player. He links up so well, he does all the simple things really, really well. And then in the box he's a great finisher. So playing off of him he makes it really, really easy. He's come in and fit in seamlessly. He's going to be a lot of fun to play with."



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