The Seattle Sounders will shift their preseason training to Casa Grande, Ariz., today — but with one key player left behind.
Starting central defender Patrick Ianni remained in Seattle with what coach Sigi Schmid called a “slight fracture” in his right foot.
Ianni is expected to be out four to six weeks, which means he may not be ready for the regular-season opener March 2 against Montreal. Schmid said the club hopes to fill the position from the current roster — probably with either veteran Zach Scott or rookie Eriq Zavaleta — rather than rush into a trade or signing.
“It’s something that we have to look at the long haul,” he said. “We can’t just focus on what’s going to happen at the beginning of the season or what’s going to happen for our first series of games. We want to make sure the team is right for the long haul.”
After concluding the first phase of training at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila on Tuesday, the team flew out for Arizona. The Sounders will train there through next Tuesday, when they conclude the trip with a friendly against the Portland Timbers.
“It’s a little bit of team building,” Schmid said of the shift to Grande Sports World, between Phoenix and Tucson. “And it’s a good training facility just in terms of soccer training. It’s not an entertainment facility, but it’s definitely a soccer-training facility. The fields are good. The complex is nice.”
There also will be a change in weather, as the Tukwila forecast called for highs in the upper 40s and rain, while Casa Grande is expected to be sunny with highs around 60.
This phase of training also will stress fitness work. So, not all the veterans sounded excited about the change of scenery.
“We will do the same things we can do here,” goalkeeper Michael Gspurning said. “But in preseason it’s just training, eat, sleep; training, eat, sleep; training, eat, sleep; training, eat … maybe a half-day off.”
Schmid sounded more enthusiastic about what his team already accomplished since opening preseason camp Jan. 21.
“There’s been some guys who have definitely opened up our eyes, and we’ve said, ‘Hey, he’s pretty sharp; he’s pretty good off the dribble; he’s pretty quick,’” Schmid said. “Some guys have had some good moments, and then you want to build on those moments and extend that out, and now they’re being effective for periods of time.
“I think the spirit in camp has been good, the effort’s been good, the work’s been good.”
Lamar Neagle of Federal Way joined the Sounders for light training Tuesday, after being traded from Montreal over the weekend. “My family’s definitely super-pumped,” Neagle said. “I’m happy to be home. It’s just been kind of surreal. I’m happy to be back and to get started in Arizona.” … Schmid said “one or two” new players might join the club at Casa Grande. … National team members Eddie Johnson and Brad Evans could join the Sounders by this weekend, Schmid said, unless they are kept around for the World Cup qualifier against Honduras on Feb. 6. … Second-year forward Babayele Sodade said he turned down an invitation to go to camp with the Canadian national team because he believes the Sounders’ camp is a better place to work his way back from the anterior cruciate ligament injury that cost him most of his rookie season. … Schmid said the club is getting close to securing a friendly match against a Mexican club as part of the Sounders’ next trip to Arizona, in mid-February. That game will be used to prepare for Seattle’s CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series against Tigres of Mexico.