It turned out to be the toastiest little sendoff the Seattle Sounders could have hoped for on a chilly Wednesday morning.
More than 200 fans braved the sub-freezing temperatures to post banners, hold up signs and holler familiar game-day chants as the team wrapped up its final home training session before the MLS Cup.
A couple of hours later, the Sounders were on a 1 p.m. charter flight out of Boeing Field headed to Toronto, where the championship match will be held Saturday night.
“Just another story in the book … of what the fans mean to the team,” Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer said. “There are a lot of people out here, and it’s great. The guys really, really appreciated it.”
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The team announced late Tuesday that the final 15 minutes of the last training session would be open to the public.
Even before the team took to the turf field behind Starfire Stadium at 10 a.m., fans began filing in.
Much of the 90-minute training was just live scrimmaging.
“They had some fun, showing off a little in front of the fans,” Schmetzer said. “The team is kind of on autopilot a little bit.”
The Sounders have been off 10 days since winning their MLS Western Conference finals series at Colorado with a 1-0 second-leg win over the Rapids. Earlier this week, Schmetzer said he noticed players starting to get a little ornery during training.
“If you’d ask any player, they would love to play these games a bit earlier,” Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei said. “The season has been so long. … We’ve played essentially the longest season you could possibly play (in MLS) because we started with CONCACAF (in February) way before anybody else did. And now we’ve gone all the way to Dec. 10.
“It is a long and grueling season. Practice is fun and all, but when your body is falling apart as every player will tell you … you want to get these games going.”
The team arrived late Wednesday night for its first on-site media session. On Thursday, the Sounders will hold training at 2:45 p.m., local time, followed by their final practice Friday at 12:30 p.m.
Schmetzer noted the team will not sightsee or partake in any down-time activities. “It is a business trip,” he deadpanned.
As far as packing for a four-day trip amid Toronto temperatures that are not expected to rise about freezing, Seattle midfield Osvaldo Alonso said he packed a few more layers of clothes than normal.
“It’s going to be cold,” Alonso said. “I packed my big jacket.”
It was 33 degrees during training Wednesday. All of the players wore either a team parka, knitted hat or gloves during their scrimmaging except for one — Uruguayan midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro. … Alonso (knee) practiced in full Wednesday, and announced he felt healthy heading into the championship match. … Schmetzer was asked in his post-training media session if former coach Sigi Schmid had talked to him since making the MLS Cup finals. “Not yet,” Schmetzer said. “I am sure he will. He has reached out to us on many occasions.” … Former Sounders coach Alan Hinton was given a complimentary seat on the team’s charter flight to Toronto.