Seattle Sounders FC opened preseason training Saturday with a roster still evolving toward the team that will be in place March 8, when the MLS season opens against New England.
Despite returning 10 starters from the Supporters’ Shield-winning team of 2014, coach Sigi Schmid and general manager Garth Lagerwey agreed there are questions to answer before the club resumes its quest for its first MLS Cup.
“We wanted to come into camp and see how some people did and how some people fit,” Schmid said. “And that might determine what are our real aches and pains that we want to solve first. Obviously right now we haven’t added a center back, per se. What are we going to do there? Are we going to make a positional change with a player? Are we going to look for something? What’s our depth at left back? We’re going to look at that. Do we need an additional wide player? Do we need another inside midfielder? I think those are the main for areas that we’re looking at.”
One personnel change in place from the first day of camp was at right back, where Tyrone Mears was brought in to replace DeAndre Yedlin, who has transferred to Tottenham Hotspur of the English Premier League.
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“Tyrone looked good today,” Lagerwey said. “He’s definitely a player that we added as a faster player to add some width. Tyrone hasn’t played a lot of matches recently, so we need to see how that goes over the course of preseason as well.”
Other new faces on the first day of training included veteran goalkeeper Troy Perkins, homegrown forward Darwin Jones and new first-round draft pick Cristian Roldan.
“You come into these not knowing what to expect,” Roldan said. “But the guys are very friendly. It was fun, competitive; I couldn’t ask for more.”
Among the missing were forward Clint Dempsey, who on Saturday was named to the U.S. national team’s 23-man roster for its upcoming friendlies against Chile and Panama, and forward Obafemi Martins and midfielder Aaron Kovar, who were away until Monday with excused absences.
Schmid confirmed that veteran defender Zach Scott underwent offseason foot surgery.
He said Scott isn’t game ready yet, but he should be by the start of the regular season.
Meanwhile, Lagerwey said goalkeeper Tyler Miller, the Sounders’ second-round pick in the recent draft, is weighing contract offers from Seattle and a club in Germany.
A decision is expected soon.
Sounders union representative Brad Evans said free agency is the main issue separating the league and its players as they negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement.
Evans said the players “absolutely” are willing to strike over the issue.
“At this point there’s been no movement on their side, and we’ve been told there won’t be,” he said. “So that’s the sticking point. I think we had a great meeting today, and I think we’ve got a very educated and a smart group, and we’re willing to battle for what we think is right: not only right, but necessary for everybody.”
Dozens of Sounders supporters greeted the club at Starfire Sports Complex for their first training session of the new year. “I’ve never had a supporters group greeting us on the way to practice,” said Lagerwey, who came over from Real Salt Lake. “That was pretty awesome.” … Schmid said rules regarding player movement between the MLS first team and the new Sounders 2 USL- Pro team haven’t been completed. … Schmid explained some facial bruising as the result of offseason surgery he had to repair a drooping eyelid. … The Sounders are off Sunday before returning to practice Monday.