With the opening match of the 2012 campaign a little more than a month away, the Seattle Sounders have compressed their preseason schedule to accommodate the early start. On Thursday, the third day of their camp in Casa Grande, Ariz., the team split into three groups of 11 for its first full-sided scrimmages, with each team playing two periods of 20 minutes.
Head coach Sigi Schmid was pleased with the teams’ performances.
“We wanted to get everybody playing a good 40 minutes and I thought it was good,” Schmid told reporters. “I thought there were some good things to be seen. I thought we were reasonably sharp at times. I thought our fitness levels were good for this early in the season.”
Of special importance was the cohesion with the new players, especially right back Adam Johansson. The Sounders are putting more of an emphasis on starting the offense through the outside backs this season, with new acquisition Johansson considered a key part of that strategy.
Schmid was happy to see a rapport forming between Johansson and his vertical partner in right midfield, Mauro Rosales.
“I thought the partnership between Johansson and Rosales, you could already see that start to develop, which is very positive,” Schmid said.
With the club’s first official match of 2012 on March 7 against Santos Laguna in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League, Schmid has modified his usual preseason routine. The projected starters for the Santos clash have been playing together more often, with Schmid paying special attention to Johansson’s acclimation with the group. The Swede trained with the Sounders for the first time Wednesday after completing national team duty in Qatar.
With Jeff Parke more often playing the right-sided center back role, the two players have found themselves next to each other even in smaller-sided drills. Schmid believes the strategy will help facilitate cohesion between the newcomer and his closest teammate on the field.
The head coach has indicated that Johansson will likely assume the starting role at right back, a disclosure that shouldn’t come as a surprise to most Sounders fans.
“Obviously, he’s a player who’s new to our team, so he’ll still need to prove himself," Schmid said. "But his pedigree speaks for himself and so it’s not going to come as a surprise, I think, to our group if we stick him onto the first-team defense early on. It’s just a matter of them getting time together in training.”
WATCH: Sounders hold 11v11 scrimmages