Sounders FC begins the second phase of its preseason training today at Casa Grande, Ariz., in the desert between Phoenix and Tucson.
“Obviously, it’s very quiet,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “There’s not a lot to do, so you can concentrate and focus.”
What the Grande Sports World complex does have are soccer fields, dedicated locker and training areas, and apartments for the players, who will work there for two weeks.
“It’s a very comfortable setup,” Schmid said. “And I think when you’re comfortable, you’re able to be more efficient when you’re on the field. We’re going a little bit longer (than we did last season) because we wanted to add some games in as well. So, we’ll see how good the guys are at cards and keeping each other entertained.”
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That can be a valuable thing to learn in a long MLS season that could reach into November.
“There’s always just a team-building aspect to it,” veteran defender James Riley said. “... We’re going to try to get an Xbox down there, just card games and movies. Obviously, with the rookies and trialists we’ll have a couple of skits and a couple of songs just to have everyone a good laugh. That’s definitely part of it.”
The Sounders will return to the Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila on Feb. 15. After three more days of training there, they will head to the IMG Soccer Academy in Bradenton, Fla., from Feb. 19-26. Then they return home for good before starting the MLS season March 15 against the Los Angeles Galaxy at Qwest Field.
But for now, the Sounders hope to use their time in Arizona to hone the philosophy they hope to employ in the coming season.
“We want to do a better job of stretching the opponent’s defense this year,” Schmid said. “We have to make sure that we stay high in that regard. We also have to make sure that we’re a little more goal-dangerous at key moments. Sometimes we would go east to west when we needed to go a little more north to south in the final 30 yards of the field.”