Returning Seattle Sounders from U.S. camp focused on staying rested, starting MLS season strong

SEATTLE — The Seattle Sounders trained on Sunday in their first session since returning from a preseason trip to Tucson, Ariz., on Wednesday.

For defenders Brad Evans and Chad Marshall and forward Jordan Morris, it was their first practice with the 2017 edition of the team after returning from nearly a three-week-long January camp with the United States national team.

The camp began the second week in January in Carson, Calif., and led into the U.S.’ friendlies against Serbia on Jan. 29 and Jamaica on Feb. 3., a scoreless draw and a 1-0 win, respectively.

The Sounders had a short offseason already given how late in the calendar year their run to their first MLS Cup took them, and for the three players at U.S. camp, their break was even shorter. But, as Evans mentioned on Sunday, having a brief offseason means players have to take extra care of their bodies to ensure they get rest when they can.

“We were thrust 100 mph from day one, but I thought the coaching staff there did a good job keeping mostly everybody healthy,” Evans said. “We had some good time off this week… It’s that repetitive nonstop calendar year that can catch up, so it’s good to get these breaks when you get back home.”

The Sounders trained at CenturyLink Field on Sunday rather than their typical Starfire Sports venue, and the focus in the first full squad session focused almost entirely on finishing. There’s no new system or formation to implement this season, so the coaching staff is tirelessly working on making sure the team doesn’t squander any chances around goal, an issue that plagued the 2016 that that got off to a rocky start.

“Everything from now on will be in front of goal,” Evans said. “Now it’s all getting guys cohesive, getting guys together, making sure that we’re sharp in front of goal, making sure we’re competitive so that when we do hit our games coming up in Charleston and in Houston to open up the season, we’re not skipping a beat.

“We don’t expect to be the best team in the world come the first game,” he continued, “but we’ve got to do our best now to make it easy on ourselves as the season goes on.”

The Sounders finish their preseason with a three-game round robin tournament in the Carolina Challenge Cup in Charleston, S.C., from Feb. 18-25, as Evans mentioned, before opening their title-defense campaign on the road at the Houston Dynamo on March 4. The Sounders will certainly have a bigger target on their backs than normal, so it will be even more crucial to be rested and fully ready from the season’s get-go.

“[Our MLS Cup win] makes for a short calendar year, but you’ll take a championship in a short calendar year any day of the week, any season,” Evans said. “The focus remains the same, to add banners to our collection, trophies to our collection, and still strive for more than what we have.”