With two weeks remaining until the Sounders FC meets Santos Laguna in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal matchup, the club began rounding into shape, built confidence and fitness during their trip to Florida.
Tuesday morning, the Sounders FC boarded a plane for Cancun, Mexico, after spending the previous ten days in Florida for a competition-intensive stage of training camp.
After drawing with Orlando City in their first match, Seattle finished off the trip with three straight shutout victories over the Columbus Crew, US U17 National Team and Florida Gulf Coast University, netting ten goals in the three wins.
“The results are always good,” head coach Sigi Schmid said. “Winning is a habit, so you want to get some wins under your belt – it helps the team’s confidence.”
With four matches played on the trip, the coaches got a better look at how players react to game situations and the players got the relief of facing opponents who wear a different jersey.
“There’s no substitute for playing,” said Roger Levesque, who is in his fourth season with the Sounders FC. “You can go out and train and play intrasquad scrimmages, but until you play against another team, you don’t know how it’s going to shape up.”
The team made its biggest headlines over the trip with the Friday trade that brought in US National Team veteran Eddie Johnson in exchange for forward Mike Fucito and midfielder Lamar Neagle.
The move struck the team by surprise, as Fucito and Neagle were both well-liked within the team. But once the players got over the shock of losing two teammates, they welcomed Johnson with open arms.
“It gives those two guys a good opportunity to solidify themselves in a new team and new environment,” midfielder Brad Evans said. “I think we gain somebody with experience who has looked extremely sharp and technical in the training sessions.”
On the field, Seattle continued to see the emergence of David Estrada as a viable option at forward, giving Schmid more options to go with incumbent starter Fredy Montero, Johnson and Sammy Ochoa.
Additionally, Christian Sivebæk continued to integrate within the team, along with Cordell Cato, expanding the team’s depth in the attack.
In addition to the game work, the team also continued their fitness work as they build toward the biggest match of the team’s four years in MLS. That included several weight training sessions, along with daily elements of fitness work before each training session.
“We’re making headway with our fitness,” Schmid said. “To get the fitness in, to be healthy, to play games and get good results … it’s been a good trip for us.”
After facing Atlante FC on Wednesday, the Sounders will return to Seattle and resume training on Sunday. They will then play their first match on the new turf at CenturyLink Field in the Community Shield match on February 29 against Jaguares de Chiapas. The friendly against the Mexican club comes free of admission, though the club is accepting donations at the gate for their community partners.