Welcome back everyone. After one of the longest offseason for the Seattle Sounders in recent memory, the team stepped out on the field at a chilly Starfire for the first practice of 2019. The obituaries for 2018 have been done Ad nauseam, so it’s time to look forward.
There were 40-some odd 1st team, draft picks and Sounders 2 (be named later) players out training, which made it a bit difficult to focus on any one thing. Also, being the first day of practice, it’s next to impossible to gauge who looked impressive (Jordan Morris scored the first “goal” of 2019).
The good news for Sounders fans is that the extended offseason allowed everyone to come it relatively healthy. Additionally, the whole first team essentially was there, including Nico Lodeiro, Raul Ruidiaz and Morris.
There were a few absences, though they were all with good reasons:
- Cristian Roldan is of course with the U.S. Men’s National Team. He made the 23-man cut, so will be with the USMNT through early February.
- Waylon Francis is with the Costa Rica Men’s National Team
- Nouhou is dealing with Visa issues, but the team doesn’t anticipate any long-term issues.
- Gustav Svensson is working on obtaining his Green Card, which would be very welcome news for roster maneuvering purposes.
I didn’t ask about Jordy Delem (who also wasn’t present), but will be sure to get clarification on his status tomorrow at the latest. Additionally, Aaron Kovar, who is under “team control” though out of contract, does not look to be returning to the team.
As is custom for the first practice, the Emerald City Supporters were out in force, singing throughout practice and handing out swag in the form of 2019 scarves to the players. Given the frigid temperatures, it was surely an appreciated gift.
Towards the end of practice, Sounders GM and President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey held his first scrum of the year. Lagerwey confirmed that both Cristian Roldan and Jordan Morris have signed long-term deals with the team. As it pertains to Morris specifically, Lagerwey was understandably happy with his return, given he has basically missed the last 18 months with injuries.
He’s also hopeful to take around 10 Academy/S2 players with them down to California, and see if any are in the mix for first team contracts. Also, draft pick Tucker Bone, who is finishing up his Air Force Academy commitments, was present “on his free time.” He won’t be a full time participant until his military status is cleared up.
It’s fair to say that Lagerwey is excited about the group that is out here; with approximately 24 1st team players under contract, they have close to a full roster, yet have some room to make additions. Additionally, Lagerwey mentioned that there may be some movement in and out as preseason starts in earnest.
Brad Smith also looks fully healthy and ready to go. He mentioned that he would have been able to play in the next playoff game, had the Sounders advanced. He confirmed his loan is up at the end of July, at which point he said he’ll sit down with the Sounders and Bournemouth and determine what is best, which could include extending the loan.
Jordan Morris definitely looked like the happiest person on the field, as this was his first “training” with no apparent restrictions since last February. “It’s been a really long year,” Morris said. “And every day I would come in and wish I could be out here, so stepping out here for the first training session feels great.” He’s also mentioned how he is looking forward to playing with a forward of Raul Ruidiaz’s skill, but demurred as to where he’d like to play. “That’s totally up to the coaching staff; for me is going out and proving everyday that I belong on the field.”
Lastly, Coach Brian Schmetzer (who worked the ECS crowd like a polished politician) enjoyed the spectacle of ECS out at practice, was also happy to be out training. He started out speaking about the Honey Badger in the room: The absence of Ozzie Alonso. “I’m going to miss him personally,” Schmetzer said. “He was a great, great player for the club. We will have to try to replace him, which is not going to be easy.”
For what I assume he hopes is the last time, Schmetzer addressed the so-called history of slow starts. “If we can stay healthy, our team is a very good team.” Schmetzer said. He noted that while in 2017 there may have been a “hangover,” 2018 was more due to the sheer amount of injuries. “You name it, we had it.” Schmetzer said. Thus the short-term goal is pretty simple: “No injuries.”
So there’s the first practice. The Sounders will practice tomorrow at Starfire, then take off for California and then Arizona.