With the grueling fitness work of Arizona behind them, Seattle Sounders players will be using their rare two-day midweek break differently.
Mike Fucito will use the time to heal up after Martín Bonjour’s errant cleat skewered his knee and thigh during a scrimmage against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Monday. Sammy Ochoa will be banking fitness after missing some of the Arizona camp for the birth of his family’s second child. The rest of the team will cherish the time with family before the club departs again for another nine days at the IMG Soccer Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
After a nine-day stay in Casa Grande, Ariz., which concluded with the team’s first official preseason match against the Whitecaps, head coach Sigi Schmid expressed his happiness with his team’s work. With the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals against Santos Laguna just one leap month away, Schmid used the time in Arizona primarily to increase his team’s fitness level.
“I think Arizona went well for us,” Schmid told reporters on a Tuesday conference call. “I think we got the work done that we wanted to get done in terms of establishing our fitness base, so I was pleased with that.”
It’s also very possible that the size of the training camp will decrease dramatically as some invitees and draft picks will likely be released from camp before the flight to Florida on Friday.
On Tuesday's call, Schmid talked at length about how the team handles the difficult process of making cuts and the possibility of some players coming back one to two years down the road.
“There are some guys who are close and you sort of want to monitor and keep tabs on them,” Schmid said. “[You want to] see how they get along and if you can put them into an environment where they can improve, like Lamar Neagle did a year ago, and get in there and play games and play minutes – those are important. Sometimes it takes time.
Schmid brought up the example of Carlos Ruiz, the well-traveled striker most recently in MLS with the Philadelphia Union. Schmid first saw Ruiz playing with the LA Galaxy's U-20s, but didn’t bring him into the first team until he was 22. It was worthwhile; "El Pescadito" scored 50 goals in 74 appearances for the Galaxy from 2002-04.
Schmid went on to name 23-year-old midfielder Alex Caskey, a 2011 Seattle draft pick who spent that season with the Charleston Battery, as a player who benefited from a year at a lower level.
The Sounders returned to Seattle on Tuesday. They will resume training on Friday before heading to Florida for the next phase of preseason camp.
HIGHLIGHTS: Sounders, Whitecaps play to 1-1 draw in preseason