The Seattle Sounders returned to Starfire Sports on Tuesday for the lone training session between the California and Arizona phases of preseason.
Prior to practice, the club announced on Tuesday that left back Waylon Francis had been traded back to Columbus Crew SC. Sounders FC General Manager & President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey said it was a move that suited all parties, as the Costa Rican international would have an opportunity compete for more playing time while the team was compensated for a position that already possesses elite depth.
“Waylon was a guy that we brought in to compete for the starting left back job,” said Lagerwey. “As it played out, he wasn’t able to win that job, so we looked to recoup our investment. We feel like we’re really strong at left back. We have Brad Smith and Nouhou, two guys that are starting level players and have started in this league.”
While the Orange County trip ended on a bit of a dour note, with the team falling 7-1 in a jilted scrimmage with Atlanta United, the subsequent trip to Tucson, Ariz., presents an immediate opportunity for the group to get back on the right track.
“We got to look at a bunch of our kids, we’re really excited about that,” added Lagerwey. “We need to keep improving. Obviously, the result is not acceptable at the end of the day and we have three games coming up in Tucson to rectify that.”
Sounders FC Head Coach Brian Schmetzer was all smiles as the team trained indoors at Starfire, escaping the bitter cold and frozen pitches outside. When asked whether the first phase of preseason should be deemed a success, he stated that the group had accomplished its two primary goals.
“I asked the coaching staff if we achieved our objectives,” said Schmetzer. “We wanted to get our basic fitness and we wanted to assess the young academy guys that we had down there. So, yes, I think we did.”
There was a familiar face at the training session, as midfielder Cristian Roldan practiced alongside his Sounders teammates for the first time after returning from U.S. Men’s National Team duty.
Roldan, who played every minute of both friendlies against Panama and Costa Rica, spoke at length about the excellent soccer education he received under new head coach Gregg Berhalter. Eager to get back to work with his Sounders teammates, the versatile midfielder is hopeful that his strong form for the USMNT will help him hit the ground running at club level.
“I think there’s a bit of buzz for me,” he said. “Fifth year now with the Sounders, coming back from a very successful January camp. I’m trying to take on a little bit more of a leadership role, both vocally and in the locker room. There’s a bit of a buzz to see all of my teammates, and we’ll look to have a really good season this year.”
Now that the likes of Nouhou, Jordy Delem and Roldan all back in the fold, and with the first stage of preseason in the rearview mirror, the team will continue its preparations during an 11-day stint in Tucson, Ariz., where they’ll face off against the Houston Dynamo (February 9), Portland Timbers (February 13), and FC Dallas (February 16).
“We want to see how they recover and go into the next phase,” said Schmetzer, “which will be more tactical stuff with the three games we have down in Tucson.”