California First Training
Josh Lavellee

Seattle Sounders in California: Running timeline during preseason

January 28, 2020

11: 07 a.m. PT – For one last time, the Sounders hopped on the team bus for the final training session at CSU Long Beach. On the back of yesterday’s grueling practice in the heat, today was a bit lighter. One of the interesting wrinkles of this trip has been how the players and staff have worked on implementing the new goal kick rule, where players can be stationed inside the box before the ball is struck. Following some brief preparations for tomorrow’s closed-doors scrimmage at Loyola Marymount University, the session ended with a 5-v-5 tournament. As most of the senior players made their way toward the bleachers, some of the young guys spent a few extra minutes doing a shooting drill.

3:30 p.m. PT – No gym session today, so the entire group has the afternoon off. Some of the players spent their time hanging out at the pool, others left the hotel to explore downtown Long Beach. I’ve been listening to early 2000’s R&B and working on content for next week, the perfect way to wrap up the trip.

The match at LMU will not be streamed, we’ll tweet updates from our Sounders Matchday account.

January 27, 2020

10:25 a.m. PT - After yet another amazing breakfast – the Greek yogurt selection is off the charts – the team departed for the penultimate training session at CSU Long Beach. The goalkeepers put in some serious work off to the side, with Trey Muse and the Stefans producing some incredible saves. As the staff continues to introduce the tactics for the 2020 season, the boys worked on quick combination play under pressure. The session ended with a series of small-sided games, where Raúl Ruídiaz finished off a 10-pass sequence with a disrespectful chipped goal from just outside the box.

3:07 p.m. PT - Back at the hotel, the whole group got together for a team lunch. Following the meal, the senior players were given the afternoon off while the young guys hit the gym for a weight-lifting session.

January 26, 2020

10:17: a.m. PT - As we head into the home stretch of the California phase of preseason, the team once again focused on fitness as the coaching staff introduced different principles of play. After yesterday’s intense fitness-based practice, which was followed by an afternoon session in the gym, the boys eased into today’s practice with a lengthy activation. That was followed by a high-octane, small-sided possession drill, which preceded rotating games of directional rondo. Each exercise was played at a rapid pace, with the focus on linking possession under intense pressure in small spaces. It was impressive to see the younger guys not only step up, but set the tempo for some of the drills.

After practice numerous Sounders players shared their condolences upon receiving the news that NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, had passed away suddenly.

January 25, 2020

10:26 a.m. PT - Back in action! After a relaxing day off from all soccer activities, the Sounders got back to work on the training pitch at CSU Long Beach. Starting off with several possession games, the group worked on providing support in possession when facing an opponent that presses. That led to a series of small-sided, 5-v-5 games to goal, with each match lasting about two minutes. There were a number of ridiculous goals, with Alex Roldan and Joevin Jones dispatching two of the best on the day.

Building their fitness ahead of the Concacaf Champions League opener next month, the session wrapped with a full-field endurance circuit. It was exhausting just to watch it.

January 24, 2020

OFF DAY! The entire team and staff enjoyed a well-earned day away from soccer. Some of the staff opted to go to the beach, while others made the trek over to Disneyland. I decided to enjoy my two favorite hobbies: sleeping and eating diner food.

The team will get back into the swing of things tomorrow as they resume their usual training schedule.

January 23, 2020

11:17 a.m. PT - On the back of the squad’s scrimmage against Peñarol yesterday, the boys enjoyed a relaxed morning with a fun regeneration session of dodgeball on the beach. The larger group was ranked by age and then broken into four groups of eight.

After a short walk to the waterfront, the Sounders dodged, dived, dipped, ducked and dodged their way through a round-robin tournament. Confident that their youthful exuberance would be a decisive factor, the Academy/Defiance squad spent all morning talking trash to their older counterparts. That backfired spectacularly as the likes of Svensson, Shipp, Frei and Leerdam quickly dispatched them on the dodgeball court.

In a Pokemon Elite Four style twist, the veteran team then had to face a staff team after beating the other three squads to truly earn the title of 2020 Preseason Dodgeball Champs. It was a bit anticlimactic, though, as the grizzled pros breezed to another win.

Afterward, some of the guys went into the water, while others took part in a group yoga session on the beach.

January 22, 2020

11:06 a.m. PT: - It’s the first Sounders Matchday of 2020! It was also the first truly sunny day of the trip! It was all so exciting!

You can find the full, well-thought, well-written recap here. But here’s a quick summary: The Sounders played very well but lost 1-0 to Uruguayan juggernauts Peñarol on a nasty free kick in the 37th minute. It was really cool to see so many kids from the Academy and Defiance go toe-to-toe with First Team players from such a quality South American side, and they actually outplayed Peñarol for long spells.

Sounders FC broadcaster Keith Costigan brought his adorable goldendoodle Daz to the field. It was very hard to live tweet the game when there was such a good doggo standing five feet away from me. Also, Steve Zakuani met some fans and all the Academy guys went up to Peñarol head coach Diego Forlan – he finished as the joint-top scorer at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, where he also won the Golden Ball, and twice led La Liga in scoring – to take pictures.

6:45 p.m. PT: - After some regen sessions, pool time and delicious dinner, the boys have the rest of the night off. I can’t say what it is, but they will be partaking in a very fun group activity tomorrow that well generate some awesome #content. Stay tuned to the Sounders FC social media channels.

January 21, 2020

10:14 a.m. PT - The Sounders once again made the short trip over to CSU Long Beach. The goalkeepers put in a rigorous training session – the two Stefans and Trey Muse made some great saves – while the field players worked on different defensive schemes. For the final activity, the team was split into four groups for a series of small field, tournament-style games. Kelvin Leerdam nearly scored with a 180-degree spinning volley, only to see his effort clang off the crossbar. Speaking of Leerdam, the veteran defender has been offering advice to all the Academy and Defiance players as they continue to integrate into the First Team environment.

After practice, Raúl Ruidíaz pranked his fellow striker Justin Dhillon during his post-practice interview by putting his speakers on full blast just as Dhillon was answering the first question.

2:24 p.m. PT -  Back at the hotel, the players and staff got together for a delicious and nutritious team lunch (I tried quinoa for the first time, didn’t hate it). Broadcaster Steve Zakuani popped by for a sit-down interview with Leerdam, talking all things Sounders. The group has a few hours off before an afternoon gym session.

Monday, January 20

10:20 a.m. PT  - For the third day in a row, the Sounders hopped on the team bus and made their way over to CSU Long Beach for their morning training session. They took the pitch for their first of two workouts on Monday as a group of supporters cheered them on from the bleachers. After a quick activation exercise, the field players played a three-team possession game while the ‘keepers worked on their distribution. The practice wrapped up with the group split into two, once again focusing on hammering home the team’s principles of defending.

As they players made their way back toward the bus, they stopped to take pictures and sign autographs for the fans in attendance. Oh, and Gustav Svensson and Stefan Frei crashed Harry Shipp’s post-practice interview. Classic.

Sunday, January 19

10:04 a.m. PT - After a team breakfast at the hotel, the boys made their way onto the team bus and drove out to Cal State University Long Beach for training. Once the warmup was completed, the team broke into smaller groups for 6-v-3 rondos, immediately followed by a larger possession game. The Sounders wrapped up the day with a series of 9-v-9 small field scrimmages, with squads comprising Academy, Defiance and First Team players. While the exercise focused on defensive principles, there were some standout moments. U-19 midfielder Chris Hegardt pulled off a cheeky nutmeg out on the wing, which drew a “that was nasty” from Assistant Coach Preki. High praise.

4:15 p.m. PT - Back at the hotel, the players and staff returned for a team lunch. Following some free time, the majority of the First Team hit the gym for a weight-lifting session, while the Academy, Defiance and younger First Team players piled back onto the bus for a second practice at CSU Long Beach. Afterward, Coach Schmetzer stressed that, while it’s a great opportunity for the Academy and Defiance prospects to compete alongside established MLS veterans, all of the young players will be held to a high standard.

Saturday, January 18 

10:30 a.m. PT - The Seattle Sounders held one final practice at Starfire Sports on Saturday ahead of a 12-day training camp in Long Beach, California. With a large swathe of supporters in attendance, a mix of Academy standouts, Tacoma Defiance prospects and First Team regulars put on an attacking clinic. After working on 1-v-1 and 2-v-1 breakaways to goal, the group wrapped up the session with some small-sided scrimmages. Showing their gratitude for all of the fans that braved the cold, the players signed autographs and took plenty of pictures.

2:00 p.m. PT - Players and staff grabbed a quick lunch at Starfire before jetting off (pun intended) to SeaTac airport.  There was an awesome moment at the terminal as a young Sounders fan, whose parents had provided him with a yellow legal pad, made the round and got every player’s autograph. Also, there was an adorable puppy named Daisy on the plane. Is that relevant? No. But was it super important? Absolutely.

7:00 p.m. PT - We’ve touched down in California! Everyone boarded on buses out of LAX and made their way to the hotel, where they had a quick team dinner. After a team dinner, the squad went their separate ways as they rest up for the first official soccer session of the trip tomorrow morning.