Three questions for the Sounders as training camp kicks off this week

On Wednesday, the Sounders opened their training camp for the 2023 season. After two days of physicals and tests, the players had their first session on the field Friday at Starfire Sports in Tukwila.

The already optimistic mood was magnified with the return of midfielders Joao Paulo (AFC Champions League) and Obed Vargas (full-back) from injury. Both are healthy, leaving backup goalkeeper Andrew Thomas (at the back) as the only player on the injured list.

Midfielder Red Baker-Whiting was also absent. He is currently training in Florida with the US U-19 National Youth National Team until next week. But the rest of the Sounders squad reported, including internationals Nohu (Cameroon), Xavier Arriaga (Ecuador), Christian Roldan (US) and Jordan Morris (US), who were called up for the recent FIFA Men’s World Cup in Qatar. .

“There’s a buzz in the group because JB coached and Oped coached,” Sounders coach Brian Schmitzer said afterwards. The club will open its doors to the media on Saturday.

(Performance coaches Sean Muldoon and Adam Centofanti) sent all the players individual, specific plans for the off-season. Noah, Jordan, Christian and Xavi were in the World Cup so they didn’t have that, but the rest of the guys had a specific program to follow and based on their test results, They did a great job sticking to the off-season training schedule. They knew it was a short runway until our first competitive game, so we coaches are very happy in that sense.”

Seattle will begin their campaign in Morocco for the FIFA Club World Cup from 1-11 February. The official draw is on Friday (January 13), but the Sounders, who advanced as CONCACAF Champions League winners, will play their opening match on February 4.

The team’s MLS opener is February 26 against Colorado at Lumen Field.

Here are three questions to answer before the season begins:

I still understand?

All eyes will be on Joao Paulo and Vargas to see if their return in midfield makes the difference for the Sounders. The former picked up his injury in the first half of a CCL match in May 2022 while Vargas, who played well with Joao Paulo, was knocked out in June.

In addition to a leaky defense—conceding 46 goals—quarterback Albert Rusnak played out of position to compensate. Schmitzer’s squad was also affected by injuries to striker Raúl Ruidiaz (hamstring/ankle) and Roldán (sports hernia).

Joao Paulo was a candidate for MVP in the league before his injury, and Vargas, a first-generation Alaskan American, has been courted by the US and Mexico national teams. If they can tap back their elite level of ball control in the middle, the Sounders could be intimidating again.

offensive upgrade?

The Sounders struggled offensively last year and veteran forward Will Bruen didn’t quit. Instead, the club traded $400,000 in guaranteed general allocation money (GAM) for Heber, who joined MLS in 2019 and scored 30 goals in 88 games for the New York City side.

But Heber (pronounced EH-ber) suffered an ACL injury in 2020. He had a promising eight-goal 2022 season, and now he’ll have to learn a new system and build chemistry with his new teammates. The positive is Heber, the third Brazilian in the Sounders list, joining Joao Paulo and winger Liu Zhu.

Heber is expected to support Ruidias and possibly pair up with Morris. The veteran Sounders lost last season, as they amassed 16 goals and six assists. Ruidias tied the franchise record with 17 goals in 2021.

A lot of kicks were left unfinished last season. Ruidias and Morris need to restore their best form in the league, while Heber and Freddy Montero need to produce as backups.

Manageable schedule?

The Sounders will move from their training camp to Spain later this month for final preparation heading into the Club World Cup. While the travel will be intense to open the season, the team has some relief in terms of schedule by not playing a game from two weeks into May. Last year’s schedule was crowded due to eight CCL games.

Schmetzer said it doesn’t make a difference given that a revamped League Cup tournament is on the horizon this summer. Mexico’s Liga MX and MLS plan to shut down the competition for a month from July 21 to August. 19. The winner receives an automated CCL berth.

“The first couple of weeks, we have to hit them really hard,” Schmitzer said of preseason workouts. “We really have to get some fitness in them and then for the next couple of weeks we’ll work on tactics, of course… Our schedule is friendly at the beginning because we have a lot of home games. It would be nice if we could score some wins and put ourselves in a good position on the field.” the long term “.

Note: Schmetzer is expected to travel to Morocco with a full roster. Morris and Roldan are in question because the men’s national team played two friendlies on January 25 and 28 in California. Neither of them played a significant role during the matches in Qatar but they are constants for the USMNT. The national team is undergoing a new leadership, which could also affect the call-up of Roldan and/or Morris.

“It is known that we are going to the Club World Cup and this could be a precedent,” said Schmitzer. “There are a lot of things that are out of my control, but I expect it will be available for us in the Club World Cup.”

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