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MLS Training Camp Preview: Seattle Sounders



PHOENIX — The Sounders are one of the teams that trained at Grande Sports World in Casa Grande, Ariz., last offseason. They're repeat customers in 2011, hoping the preseason will be the springboard to a third playoff berth in three seasons of existence. 

Seattle, two-time defending U.S. Open Cup champion, has largely the same cast of characters in place for 2011 sprinkled with some youth. The group includes scorer Fredy Montero, goalkeeper Kasey Keller, veteran presence Blaise N'Kufo, 2009 All-Star defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, improving wing Steve Zakuani and constants James Riley, Osvaldo Alonso and Leo Gonzalez. 

Hurtado and midfielder Brad Evans, who both dealt with major injury last season, are back hoping to be important pieces for coach Sigi Schmid. 

Seattle's mission in 2011? The Sounders like to talk in terms of an MLS Cup. But getting out of the first round of the playoffs has to come first. With the team's offseason moves and a deeper and younger roster, they might have the group to achieve it. 

Here's a closer look at the Sounders' preseason in Arizona:


Length of stay: Jan. 30-Feb. 12 at Grande Sports World.

Tentative training game/scrimmage schedule: Feb. 4 vs. Vancouver, Feb. 8 vs. Real Salt Lake, Feb. 10 vs. Columbus.

Key Arrivals: M Erik Fribeg, D Danny Earls, F O'Brian White, M Michael Tetteh.

Key Departures: M Nathan Sturgis, M Sanna Nyassi, M Peter Vagenas, D Tyrone Marshall.

What to watch for: Seattle stocked up on players in the Superdraft and still has a couple of second-year draftees that need seasoning, David Estrada and Mike Seamon, so it will be interesting to see who emerges from the crop of youngsters. Can Hurtado and Evans rebound from their injuries? Is this the year energetic midfielder/forward Mike Fucito becomes a starter? And how will Kasey Keller perform in his final year as a player? Injuries took their toll on the Sounders early last season, and midfielder Osvaldo Alonso's style of play lends itself to getting hurt. Alonso is the key in the midfield; he'll need to stay healthy all year. 

Of note: This should be a fun preseason for the Sounders, who'll host the first Cascadia Summit featuring themselves, Vancouver and Portland in early March before the regular season starts… Sigi Schmid won the MLS Cup with Columbus in his third season as head coach. Seattle hopes for the same result in Schmid's third campaign. 



  1. Sturgis was great. He wasn’t flashy, but played a linking role and did it well. You can pinpoint last year’s turn around to the moment Sturgis became the starter.

    That being said, the #1 thing missed by previews to this season is Fernandez getting a whole pre-season to be with the squad.

  2. Excited for the start of the season.

    Hope the boys stay healthy and Zakuani shoots the da*n ball, instead of dribbling into double teams.

    Only 46 days till opening night.

  3. Right, which—to address Oranje’s comment—is precisely how “anything like this” gets started.

    Sounds like we inquired about the prom queen’s plans for later in the evening and were rebuffed like the goofy underclassmen that we are.

  4. Holy. Crap.

    It was a joke, boys—as indicated by suggesting that acquiring the best player in the 2010 World Cup could “partially ameliorate” the loss of two MLS bench players.

    Good grief, who are you people?

  5. Sturgis is a painless loss, Steve. We have coverage in that position. Sure, he played fine, but Seamon did just as well in his limited minutes.

  6. —And the loss of Vagenas and Sturgis could be at least partially ameliorated by the pending acquisition of Diego Forlan.—

    Not pending. At all.

    And partially ameliorated? Are you effin kiddin me? IF he were to come it’d be more than a “partial” improvement I’d say.

  7. He was terrible two years ago when we tried him at left back, but he really grew into his role in central mid when Evans went down. I probably don’t want him starting for a contender, but would have loved to have him around for depth in what promises to be another busy schedule.

    He’s still young and has had some injuries and seems like a great kid. You could see his play improve last year as his confidence grew in his new role. His solid play was key to SSFC turning its season around, and Sounders fans should be grateful for his service. Hope he finds a home that gives him a chance to realize his potential.

  8. Also, our young stars (Zak, Montero, Ozzie) are a year older and have spent that much more time together. COME ON SEASON, START TODAY!

  9. Not terrible, but not a starter. He was also very expensive. Great off-season for the Sounders. Moved overpriced older players for younger talent.

    This, in addition to starters becoming healthy, a full off-season and pre-season for Nkufo and Fernandez.

    VERY excited about this season.

  10. He played well for the Sounders helping to cover for all of the injuries. It appears they have replacements.

    The painless loss is pass back Pete, interesting how he doesn’t have a team to play for.

  11. Good to hear. He was a monster right before he got hurt, so it’s not surprising news. Really hoping Evans develops some chemistry with N’Kufo—the stares Blaise sent Nate Sturgis were painful to watch.

  12. So geeked. Definitely heading to the preseason Cascadia summit at Starfire.

    Post doesn’t mention Nate Jaqua, who found out after his post-season surgery that his injury was more serious than realized. He’s been limited in training thus far, but here’s hoping a good soccer player and stellar guy is back doing what he loves doing sooner rather than later, and doing it in front of a packed house at Qwest. Not a starter anymore given the talent up top, but a great sub and good depth to have for CCL and USOC matches.

    And the loss of Vagenas and Sturgis could be at least partially ameliorated by the pending acquisition of Diego Forlan.

  13. Word is Evans has been a monster in practice, showing a level of fitness and form that has everyone talking. Not so much buzz on Hurtado, but reports are that he is pretty close to 100%.

  14. Come on You Sounders!!

    I feel good about the depth this year; we’ve got good cover for the two painful losses (Nyassi, Sturgis), and have added some young talents that could step in and play minutes in USOC and CCL.

    If we stay relatively healthy, and take the chemistry and footballing IQ one step further, I think we can complete for the MLS Cup. But it will require a much improved attack that can build play through midfield and attack from multiple directions—the past two seasons have relied on wingers to do the job, but that has been easily thwarted by opposing, committed defenses.


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