Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid would like to use a couple of home friendlies this weekend to experiment with his roster.
However, it might not be so easy to write these off as meaningless training matches because tonight and Sunday will mark Seattle’s inaugural meetings with new MLS rivals Portland and Vancouver.
“I was looking at them as just a couple of preseason matches, but I was told that I couldn’t look at them that way: I had to look at them as a little bit more than that,” Schmid said this week, maybe only partly joking. “(These are) games that are important. It’s obviously rivalry games, but it’s still part of preseason. Obviously, we have to make a decision a little bit in terms of the units we’re going to play: when we’re going to play one unit, when we’re going to play the other.”
Rivalries aside, there is another reason these games could be played at a higher-than-usual level: Schmid considers it time to get his likely regular-season starters up to 75- or even 90-minute fitness.
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“At this stage, as a player you feel better having a couple of 90 minutes under your belt before you have to go at it for real,” he said after training Thursday.
The kickoff between the Sounders and Portland Timbers tonight will mark the beginning of the three-day Cascadia Summit, a gathering of the MLS’ three Northwest rivals and their fans within the close quarters of the Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila.
“It seemed to make sense from a logistical standpoint, and to a lesser degree from a marketing standpoint – just continuing to build a buzz on the rivalry,” Sounders general manager Adrian Hanauer said. “And, finally, we thought it might be a good opportunity to get some of the supporters together, perhaps in not quite as much of a cauldron as when the regular season begins.”
The main events are the three games: Seattle vs. Portland at 7:30 tonight, Portland vs. Vancouver at 4 p.m. Saturday, and Seattle vs. Vancouver at 3 p.m. Sunday. The Sounders games already are sellouts. Tickets remain available for the Saturday game.
Also on the Saturday schedule is a supporters summit at noon and coaches forum from 1-2 p.m. And at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, there will be a non-ticketed match between the Sounders FC Academy U18 and the Whitecaps FC Residency teams.
The summit, forum and U18 game are all non-ticketed events, but there is a $10 parking fee at Starfire.
Forward Nate Jaqua (hip) said Thursday that he might be a week or two behind his goal of being ready for the season opener. ... Former U.S. national team star Julie Foudy watched practice Friday at Starfire. She is part of the ESPN crew in town to create a profile of goalkeeper Kasey Keller, which will be part of the coverage of the MLS First Kick game March 15 when Los Angeles visits Qwest Field.
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