Recharged Nicolas Lodeiro arrives at Seattle Sounders preseason camp ready to defend MLS title

TUKWILA, Wash. — Seattle Sounders midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro participated in his first day of preseason training camp on Friday.

The Sounders had given Lodeiro an excused absence so he could take extra time to rest after a busy 2016. He played for 18 consecutive months without a legitimate break because of his midseason transfer from Argentina’s Boca Juniors.

Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer praised Lodeiro’s work ethic on Friday, complimenting a player who was forced to recharge during a short offseason window.

“The kid actually works really super hard,” said Schmetzer of Lodeiro. “He was off the charts with his running, his data was off the charts. They all needed a break. It was not just the physical side of it, it was the emotional side as well. They had overcome a bunch of giant hurdles. They needed that mental break as well.

“If he needs to take a pro day,” Schmetzer added, “he can take a pro day.”

Lodeiro said he did in fact have a relaxing offseason, but it was far from uneventful. He got married while back home in Uruguay and was happy to just spend time with his family and to give his body a break.

“Truthfully I was tired by the end, it was a long season for me,” Lodeiro said through a translator. “I was able to rest a lot and come back with a lot of energy to do good things again.”

Lodeiro looked like his usual playmaking self on Friday, combining with teammates and operating in tight spaces. He worked especially well with Clint Dempsey, who is back in full training after being sidelined with an irregular heartbeat last August.

“It’s a beautiful surprise,” Lodeiro said of Dempsey’s return. “Clint for us is a very important person. The most important thing is that he’s happy and he seems to be on form physically. He’s going to help the team and me particularly, I feel comfortable having him around.”

Schmetzer is looking forward to Lodeiro and Dempsey’s growing partnership as well, and he hopes they continue to build on the momentum they forged in their brief time playing together.

“We obviously hope to improve on [their four games last season], but are realistic enough to know that teams will now watch film,” Schmetzer said. “They did a little bit toward the end of [last] year, they figured out some of Nico’s tendencies.

“Clint will help relieve some of the stuff that other teams try and do to shut [Lodeiro] down,” Schmetzer continued. “On the other side, Nico will open up stuff for Dempsey.”

There has been quite a bit of turnover from the 2016 club that won the franchise’s first MLS Cup, but Lodeiro is excited about Seattle’s new acquisitions and what they can contribute. He said all of them have a strong desire to be there, and the team will need players with a good heart to be able to repeat as champions.

Despite already preparing for 2017, Lodeiro said he finally had time in the offseason to reflect on the magical run the team had last year. Even now, though, it’s difficult for him to properly express.

“I don’t think there are words to describe the beautiful sensation that I had,” Lodeiro said. “It was an incredible six months.”