The Sounders ended their (short) first phase of training, as the team will be heading down to California on Thursday for some practices in warmer climates. The team won’t be back training in Seattle training for almost a month, save a one-day session. After California, they will move on to Arizona to participate in the Mobil Mini Sun Cup.
As we’re only a couple of days into preseason, storylines about specific players, tactics and formations haven’t really developed. That said, the team was able to do some small-field scrimmages. Brad Smith and Raul Ruidiaz combined for a nice goal, with the latter finishing a nice cross from the former. On the player front, both Jordy Delem and Nouhou are still dealing with Visa issues, though the team continues to believe they’ll both be back soon, notwithstanding the current immigration issues (or transfer rumors).
There was some big organization news, as former Sounders 2 (be named later) head coach John Hutchinson has left the team for a first team coaching opportunity in his native Australia. In his place, Chris Little has been promoted from the Academy to run the USL side.
Little said he thinks that with an additional year of experience, the Sounders 2 players will be in a better position to compete, and potentially compete for playoff spots. “As we go on to this year, those players are now a year older than they were last year when they made their debuts.” Little said. “We have a slightly bigger squad in comparison to last year, so those are all helpful things.”
Sounders GM and President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey had quite a bit of praise for the former coach, especially in light of the fact the USL side was so young (in fact, youngest in the USL last year). But he also was excited about what Little, who coached the U17 to the National Championship, could bring.
“This completes our restructuring of the club,” Lagerwey said. “We’re essentially removing S2 as an entity unto itself and we now have two phases of the club. We have Sounders as the First Team, and we have player development below that…The development now simply becomes U-12 to USL — it’s all one progression up to that point — and then we begin to transition players up to the First Team.”
Lagerwey also talked at length about what he sees as the future of Sounders 2, which will culminate (off the field) with the team re-brand and news on the new stadium in Tacoma.
On the field, Lagerwey also addressed the absence of David Estrada, who was the most dangerous attacking player for S2, though at age 30 doesn’t necessarily fit with S2’s premise. That said, Lagerwey agreed that having a veteran who can fill a developmental goal is a benefit. “David was phenomenal,” Lagerwey said. “He was absolutely incredible in terms of the on-the-field, off-the-field mentorship that he brought.” Lagerwey said he would have liked to retain the forward, but there were some other issues that prevented it.
That said, Lagerwey is hopeful the young players will be able to step up with a year of experience. “Talent-wise, do I think we’re better? Yes I do.” Lagerwey said, specifically mentioning Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez and Alec Diaz as players he hopes takes the next step.
Similarly, Coach Brian Schmetzer is bullish on the development of the young Academy/USL corps, and indicated there are senior team slots available, should a player seize the opportunity. “It’s the start of trying to get players younger, getting them a taste and seeing if they can bear any fruit.” Schmetzer said. “There are a couple of roster spots, if any of them are any good, if they can make it, we’ll sign a couple.”
The media also got their first chance to talk with a couple of new acquisitions in former Chicago Fire center back Jonathan Campbell, and newest homegrown signing Trey Muse. Campbell was picked up in a transaction with the Chicago Fire, and said he felt this was a opportunity for a bit of a fresh start. “Not saying that I was getting comfortable there, but something new is always a positive challenge.” Campbell said.
As for Muse, he believes that this was the right time to join the Sounders as he qualifies for a status that will allow him to continue his eduction at Indiana, and said his short-term goals are learning from Frei, S2 minutes and the U-20 World Cup this June. “I have to keep my speed up to be able to emulate Steph’s (Frei) speed of play and training speed and that’s always difficult.”
The team expects to take about 10 Academy/S2 players to camp in California and Arizona, in addition to the draft picks and guest players. You can find the entire roster below. As this is preseason, expect this to change fairly significantly, as players may be brought in for trials, and others move on for other opportunities.