The Seattle Sounders faced Uruguayan perennial powerhouse Club Atlético Peñarol in a closed-door scrimmage as they ramp up their preparations for the 2020 season.
Playing three, 30-minute intervals with wholesale changes at each break, the Sounders fell 1-0 as the Uruguayans took the lead in the 37th minute courtesy of a knuckling free kick.
With a team made up largely of Academy and Tacoma Defiance prospects against first team players for Peñarol, the Sounders dominated possession and carved out several chances to equalize. Earlier in the week, Head Coach Brian Schmetzer challenged the young players in camp to prove that they belong in the First Team environment. Facing off against a South American powerhouse, the kids stepped up.
WORK, WORK, WORK, WORK, WORK
To be clear, the objective for First Team players heading into the closed-doors scrimmage was to work on their fitness as they prepare for both Concacaf Champions League and the start of the 2020 MLS regular season. The starting group, which featured established First Team guys like Gustav Svensson, Kelvin Leerdam and Joevin Jones, got 30 solid minutes of work against a strong opponent. New signing Shane O’Neill put in a strong shift at center back, supplying several timely interventions and winning several aerial duels.
Several players have mentioned throughout the week in California that this first phase of preseason is all about getting back into the flow of things. It’s still early days, but the team had moments where they looked sharp on both sides of the ball, an encouraging sign as they prepare to compete on two fronts early in the season. Faced off against a team that pressed high from the opening whistle, the Sounders stuck to their guns and worked on building possessions out of the back. That approach will stand them in good stead as they enter the 2020 campaign.
THERE ARE YOUTHS EVERYWHERE
Once the First Team guys wrapped up their 30-minute shift, many of the top talents from the Sounders youth system played over an hour against one of the top clubs in South America. Not only did they hang with Peñarol, but at times they outplayed their opponents. The midfield trio of Chris Hegardt, Josh Atencio and Danny Robles dictated the tempo of the match, splitting lines with forward passes and playing long diagonals. Center back pairing Sam Rogers and Antino Lopez came up with several crucial interventions, while Ethan Dobbelaere, Azriel Gonzalez, Ray Serrano and Marlon Vargas supplied some creativity out wide.
The Sounders will enjoy a couple of days off from the typical preseason grind before returning to full training on Saturday. Following the California phase of preseason, the team will return home to Seattle on January 29 to gear up for the second half of preseason.