There were lots of familiar faces at Starfire Sports Complex as Wednesday, as the team enjoyed a near-full complement of players for training now that the Copa América and Concacaf Gold Cup have concluded.
Last week, the team traversed the country for a pair of road fixtures against New York City FC and the Columbus Crew. With players still away on international duty, a host of young talents at the club received debuts, impressing the coaching staff with their performances.
“Danny Leyva played very well,” said Sounders FC Head Coach Brian Schmetzer. “He took the most of his opportunity. Justin Dhillon has done well. [Alfonso] Ocampo-Chavez I was impressed with. So, I’m happy that those guys were able to perform, and they performed at a high level.”
Midfielder Cristian Roldan, who was away with the U.S. men’s national team, was also excited about the way the young guys made the most of their opportunities.
“Every time the Sounders were on, I was trying to watch [the game],” he said. “Whether it was on the bus or in the locker room, I made my best effort to watch every single minute of the games. I congratulated every single one of the guys who debuted, and also the guys who played extremely well.”
Roldan’s teammate for both club and country, winger Jordan Morris, is excited about returning to the friendly confines of CenturyLink Field after missing so much time away with the national team.
“I’m excited to be back at home,” said Morris. “It’s been a long time since I’ve played at CenturyLink. I’m excited to get back out there. Coming off that game [against Mexico in the Gold Cup final], it will be nice to have a big crowd at home.”
While the team was disappointed with their 3-0 loss at NYCFC, they feel that manner in which they rebounded with a 2-1 win against the Crew provides a foundation for future strong showings away from home.
“It’s really important that after New York we regrouped and were able to get a result in Columbus,” said goalkeeper Stefan Frei. “We’ve been decent at home, and we want to continue that. But that has to be a basis and you have to be able to find something on top of it on the road too. Get a point here and there, get three points here and there. It was nice to finally get three points on the road.”
The Sounders will play host to reigning MLS Cup champions Atlanta United on Sunday (12:55 p.m. PT; ESPN, YouTube TV, 950 KJR, El Rey 1360 AM; TICKETS). Under the tutelage of new head coach Frank De Boer, the team has implemented a new tactical identity, utilizing sustained possession to unbalance opponents. According to Frei, that tactical diversity will make them a tricky opponent.
“They’re a dangerous squad,” he added. “They’ve transitioned a little bit in their game plan. Last year they were a very counter-attacking team. This year they’re starting to sprinkle in some possession and some build-up. It’s difficult because that’s how they want to play, but they have another system to fall back on, one that has worked quite well for them in the past.”
With the senior players returning from international duty and the young guys prepared to step up if called upon, the Sounders will be ready for whichever game model Atlanta rolls out this weekend.