Preseason opener against Portland is finally here

The club has been gearing up for Tuesday's match with the rival Timbers for quite some time.

CASA GRANDE, Ariz. – After six days at Grande Sports World for preseason training camp, the Sounders FC are about ready to face an opponent who isn’t wearing the Seattle logo and on Tuesday, they will play their first preseason match against the Portland Timbers in Tucson, Ariz.

“It’s good to kick somebody different.  You get tired of playing yourselves and it’s a good culmination of the week,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said after training on Monday.  “I think a lot of guys know that this is a big opportunity for them and they have to take full advantage of it and a lot of guys know that it’s a chance to work on their sharpness and their game and their fitness.”

The Sounders have played two 11v11 scrimmages so far in preseason – one at Starfire before they moved camp to Arizona and another on Saturday in Casa Grande – though the focus will be different on Tuesday.  In the previous scrimmages, particularly the one on Saturday, the focus was on the new players in camp, seeing who could fit in with the returning group.

“It was more about evaluating players and seeing players,” Schmid said of the short scrimmage on Saturday.  “We have a good idea of the guys on our team, now going into the game Tuesday, we’re missing some important pieces on our team.”

Those missing pieces include four players away on international duty and three others out with injuries.  Brad Evans and Eddie Johnson are with the US as they prepare for a World Cup qualifier against Mario Martinez and Honduras on Wednesday and Adam Johansson is with Sweden for a friendly against Argentina.  With Patrick Ianni out with a broken foot, the Sounders will also hold Osvaldo Alonso and Andy Rose out of Tuesday’s match while they recover from niggling injuries from camp.

That will give chances to younger players and players in on trial to test their mettle with the starting group.

For that reason, Schmid is less concerned about the results than he would under normal circumstances.

“Some other people are going to get good opportunities.  It’s important not to go crazy about Tuesday’s results because Tuesday is going to be about looking at a lot of people,” Schmid said.  “We want to be able to make decisions on certain roster spots and be able to look at some of the trialists, especially the foreign guys like Phillip Lund and Djimi Traore and Shavar Thomas to give us an indication where they’re at.  The result is secondary.”

For their part, the players are excited at the opportunity to get on the field in a game against a new opponent.  They have been training for two weeks now and are eager to put their efforts to the test.

“I think it’s a good opportunity.  We’ve been pushing hard and it’s just been amongst each other.  It’s the first time to put into practice what we’ve been training,” said Seattle midfielder Steve Zakuani.  “You can’t compare training to a game, even if it’s a preseason game.  The games aren’t always pretty in preseason but that’s why you have them.”

The match on Tuesday will be webcast live on, with kickoff slated for 9:30 am PT.  After the match, the team will return to Seattle and resume training on Friday at Starfire before returning to Arizona for the next phase of camp, this time to Tucson where they will play in the Desert Diamond Cup.