After nine days and eight nights in Casa Grande, Arizona, the Sounders FC will return to Seattle today, taking a short break in their 2012 preseason before leaving Saturday for Bradenton, Florida.
In that time, head coach Sigi Schmid put a focus on getting his top group together as much as possible to get them better prepared for the first match of the season, a March 7 showdown with Santos Laguna in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League.
In Monday’s 1-1 draw with the Vancouver Whitecaps, that starting group played the first 45 minutes and held the majority of possession and was in control for most of the half, but allowed a goal in the first minute and wasn’t able to equalize. Even still, the team is confident in the starting group.
“It felt good. It’s going to be another strong squad,” midfielder Brad Evans said. “Once everybody’s fit it’s going to be something special.”
In addition to building cohesion with the starting group, the club has also put a focus on the fitness of the team, which showed in spades in the match against Vancouver.
Another one of the things to emerge from training camp has been the play of Fredy Montero. Normally a slow starter in the early stages of training camp, Montero has shown an affinity toward playing a more prominent leadership role with the team since the departure of the club’s captain for the first three years, Kasey Keller.
“In the absence of Kasey, everybody is going to step up a little more. Obviously Mauro has his leadership qualities, but you see more leadership from Fredy Montero,” Schmid said. “He’s trained very well. Better than he’s ever trained in the early parts of the season. I think his focus has been very good.”
Montero and Rosales aren’t alone though. Schmid also mentioned the midfield duo of Evans and Osvaldo Alonso.
The Sounders return to Seattle Tuesday and will resume training camp on Friday in Seattle before departing for Florida for the next phase of preseason.