Sounders FC

Sounders leave for Arizona, fitness training

Sounders’ FC stretches its preseason training over two months, two states and two continents.

The first phase ended Tuesday with a light day of work at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila.

And once the players finished their weight-lifting around noon, coach Sigi Schmid declared the club’s early missions accomplished.

“It was good,” he said. “Obviously we worked pretty hard (Monday), playing two games on big fields. You can see it in the guys’ legs a little bit. So (Tuesday) was just 45 minutes on the field and then get some weight-training in. That was sort of the conclusion of Phase One. ... I’m pleased with where we are right now.”

The Sounders opened camp at Starfire on Jan. 25, took fitness tests at the Seahawks’ indoor training facility Wednesday and Thursday, and returned to Starfire Friday through Tuesday.

Today, the club will fly to Arizona, where it will work through Feb. 11 at the Casa Grande Performance Institute south of Phoenix.

“We’re ramping up our fitness right now,” Schmid said. “That’s what we’re going to concentrate on in Arizona. There’s only one game scheduled (against Vancouver, on the final day at Casa Grande).”

This second phase of training is similar to what the Sounders did last season in Ventura, Calif. However, the new multi-field facility in Casa Grande is drawing the Sounders, the Whitecaps, the Colorado Rapids and Real Salt Lake this season; and it could evolve into a regular spring training site, akin to baseball’s Cactus League.

“We’d like to see if we can make that sort of a permanent thing,” Schmid said. “Going down to Arizona makes sense. Especially now that we know that more teams are coming into it. ... We might still want to go overseas, but maybe the overseas trip is a little shorter, maybe Arizona becomes a little longer.”

After playing Vancouver, the Sounders will return to Western Washington for a short break before flying to La Manga, Spain, where the emphasis will turn to competition. The Sounders will meet Norwegian champion Rosenborg BK on Feb. 18 in the opening Group A of the La Manga Cup. Then they will face either Denmark’s FC Norsjaelland or Norway’s Stabak on Feb 21. Other games and opponents will depend on how the club does.

“We’re going to get at least four games in there, a couple of them are already scheduled,” Schmid said. “We know there’s a third that depends how we do in the first two games. And we’re going to try and get a fifth game as well. So we want to come back from those two trips ... being at a point where we feel like we’re 80-85 percent fit. And we also want to come back where we think the things we want to add to our game –playing faster, playing quicker, being better in the box, being more aggressive in the box – we want to make sure we’re able to add those things.”

The Sounders will open their second Major League Soccer season March 25 at home against Philadelphia. The entire MLS schedule will be released at 11 a.m. today.

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com

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