The Seattle Sounders are not among the teams cleared to have individual training sessions yet, but the hope is that they'll meet the necessary requirements to do so soon, at which point head coach Brian Schmetzer says he's already thinking about ways to safely and effectively do some work at Starfire Sports Complex.
MLS announced last week that players will be permitted to conduct individual workouts at outdoor facilities starting on Wednesday, with Atlanta United and Sporting Kansas City among the teams that are slated to do so. When other teams get the go-ahead remains a fluid situation dependent on each club's communication with its local public health authorities, and while Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey said that his club won't be training Wednesday, they'll be in communication with those higher-ups to determine what date they can get back to the training ground.
The individual sessions, of course, won't be nearly the same thing as getting to train with a full compliment of teammates with no restrictions, but on a Tuesday conference call with reporters, Schmetzer said that the simply getting outside and running around away from home could act as a mental boost for his players in itself.
"From a mental standpoint, I think everybody has been cooped up for a long time and just getting out, and even if you're not close and however the arrangements come out with quadrants, segments, all of the safety issues that we're going to do before we even step on the field, I think it'll be good for the guys to run around on the grass," Schmetzer said. "I'm sure they are going to want to do something. The flip side of that is if we start [training] now, the games are still down on the horizon, guys are going to be tired of dribbling around cones for an hour a day — that's not much fun for them either.
"We're trying to keep both of those mindsets in our thoughts of how we roll out this training and what we do and, more importantly, what are we allowed to do at the appropriate moments. We're talking about all the different options. From a medical standpoint, from a training standpoint, guys can only do so much in their apartments, in their living rooms, the Zoom workouts and all of that — our fitness guys are saying, 'Hey, look, we've got to get them outside and open their legs up, get the hamstrings moving again.' So there's a physical component and there's also a mental component to it as well."
Having players train under the distancing and safety restrictions that will be in place will be tricky, but Schmetzer said he and his staff have been brainstorming ideas on ways to make it productive.
"It gave us a little bit of a smile on our face, thinking that we could actually start to even think about planning training," Schmetzer said. "If these individual trainings are going to start, when it's safe, when it's been okay'd by all parties that need to bless this, it's one soccer player in a quadrant of a field. There's really not much you can do. We talked about the first week, let's just get them out there. We talked about the second week of individual training maybe we can make some competitive games where they're working against each other and there are specific quadrants according to a stopwatch. We're trying to think of fun ways to get them to interact with each other but not interacting with each other."
Of course, there are lot of hurdles to clear before any of this can become a reality. For the moment, the Sounders players are still confined to their home workouts and the training sessions they've been doing as a group over Zoom, which Lagerwey said will remain the case until the health authorities give a green light.
"This is critically important, I have no opinion on this, we have no opinion on this," Lagerwey said. "We'll do as we are directed by the public health authorities. So if they deem individual training as compliant with the order, then we'll do it. And if they don't, we won't."