For the first time in over two months, members of the Seattle Sounders trained at Starfire Sports.
Over the weekend, the club announced it had received approvals from local, regional and state authorities to initiate supervised voluntary individual training sessions. On Monday, the first slate of sessions took place at the club’s facility in Tukwila.
“Everything has been great,” said Head Coach Brian Schmetzer. “The coaches are happy to be out here, and the players are happy to be out here. It’s been a good start.”
In adherence with MLS protocols and guidance from health experts, the club instituted a strict regimen of safety measures, including staggered arrivals, sanitation stations, temperature checks, restricted access to indoor facilities, required use of PPE and limited movement to one player per quarter of the field.
According to midfielder Harry Shipp, the abundant precaution left the players feeling assured it was safe to return to a more formalized training setting.
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“We had a call the other day with the whole medical staff, walking through everything,” said Shipp. “I think it was very detailed, which is good. The plan has been executed exactly how they described it today.”
Midfielder Cristian Roldan echoed those sentiments, pointing out that the league and Sounders FC have prioritized returning to training under the correct circumstances over rushing back as quickly as possible.
“I think it’s great to be safe,” said Roldan. “You’d rather be safe than sorry at this point. That’s why we took a little bit longer to get back on the field. I think it’s good for MLS and good for us as individuals to do things right so that we’re back on the field and flattening the curve overall.”
Monday marked the first time that any member of the club had participated in any formalized sessions since March 11. With the requisite restrictions and protections in place, it was a small, but critical, step to returning to full training.
For the players who’ve been cooped up inside for the last couple of months, unable to be around their teammates, Monday’s return to training was a breath of fresh air.
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“You need to, as a soccer player, be able to focus and get good touches while you’re fatigued,” added Stefan Frei. “As a goalkeeper, you need to be able to focus on the ball, do everything as clean as possible, while you’re in a state of fatigue. That’s what we want to work up to: get those reps in and be used to being in a state of fatigue again.”
In terms of building fitness, Schmetzer pointed out that the objective of this first week was to collect data, measuring the fitness levels of players and establishing critical baselines for a return to play.
“We’re doing a little bit of testing,” said Schmetzer. “They’re all wearing their heart rate and GPS [monitors]. We’re doing a bit of testing to see where their fitness levels are at, and then trying to reestablish that base of fitness.”
It remains unclear when players will begin to be able to train together in small groups, let alone participate in full-team training. But Monday’s individual sessions provided a critical first step, and it gave a bit of respite to the players as they were reunited with their teammates from a safe distance.