The Seattle Sounders bid a ragged goodbye to Tucson on Tuesday.
After 10 days in the desert, and just one day from home, the Sounders concluded their Desert Friendlies with a loss to Celaya FC of the Mexican second division.
It was the Sounders third consecutive defeat in Arizona training, all by the same 2-1 score.
“The thing is you’re at the end of a long stay,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “Everybody wants to get home and leave Tucson. No offense to Tucson, but we’ve been here for a long time — 10 days — and we could tell already before the game in the locker room that mentally they were checked out a little bit. So we were hoping that we didn’t get off to a slow start; that we didn’t need to take something from them to wake up.”
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The Sounders fell behind 2-0 in the first 17 minutes. They stabilized after that, and got one goal back in the second half, as Nelson Valdez headed in a free kick from Andreas Ivanschitz.
Otherwise, the highlight was the beginning of Jordan Morris’ professional career, as he came on at the start of the season half.
“I thought the first 20-25 minutes we were horrible,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “A mistake early for the goal, and then they hit a good goal for the second one. But we gave away too much space early in the game. After those first 25 minutes, I thought we were the better team. From there on out we had some chances. We were close. We were around there. We scored a goal off the free kick and some other opportunities that were pretty close. But obviously we can’t start games like that.”
The game was scheduled as an introduction to Mexican soccer in preparation for the Feb. 23 CONCACAF Champions League semifinal opener against Club America.
“If we give Club America that kind of space and time they’ll kill us,” Schmid said.
The Sounders’ first 11 was goalkeeper Stefan Frei; defenders Tyrone Mears, Jimmy Ockford, Chad Marshall and Joevan Jones; midfielders Osvaldo Alonzo, Erik Friberg and Ivanschitz; and forwards Clint Dempsey, Valdez and Darwin Jones.
That lineup probably includes nine of what would be Schmid’s first-choice 11. The additions would be Brad Evans in place of Ockford, and Obafemi Martins in place of Darwin Jones. Martins was simply given a night off, while Evans is slowly easing back from hamstring tightness that began while he was away with the U.S. national team.
El Toros surged ahead with a third-minute goal by Christian Gordillo and another in the 17th minute by Victor Manon. Both took advantage of holes in the center of the Seattle defense. Goalkeeper Stefan Frei got his hand on the second one, but managed to send it only into the top netting.
“We just had to watch out for that third runner coming in,” Ockford said. “They killed us on it in the beginning, but kind of sorted it out as the game went on. We just have to watch out for that more and hopefully we won’t let that happen.”
When the second half began, homegrown forward Morris was the only newcomer on the pitch. He spent some of his 45 minutes playing as the middle forward of the Sounders’ 4-3-3, and some on the left.
“I like playing in the middle more, but obviously whatever gets you on the field,” Morris said. “I’m happy to do whatever helps the team.”
Some Sounders who sat out this game will scrimmage against host FC Tucson on Wednesday morning. Then the team will fly back to the Northwest for a few days of relaxation before resuming preseason camp in Southern California.