By Don Ruiz The News Tribune
Sounders FC found a traffic jam in the desert Tuesday morning, and things went downhill from there, culminating with a 1-0 preseason loss to the archrival Portland Timbers.
There were other problems, too. The team is without four key players away on international duty. Several other Sounders are battling the flu. Then the friendly was delayed 30 minutes after traffic from a highway accident doubled the expected one-hour drive from Casa Grande, Ariz., to the stadium in Tucson.
Considering all that, Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said a one-goal loss in the initial training game of preseason wasn’t so bad.
“I know there’s a lot of Portland fans that are all excited today because they picked up a one-nothing win victory,” Schmid said. “But I look at it as a situation of who played, what we came through today, and at the end of the game being down one-nothing we were banging on the door trying to make it one-one. I’m pleased with our character, I’m pleased with our attitude and with our approach and how we played.”
Schmid had warned fans not to expect much on the scoreboard as the club faced an opposing team for the first time since the Los Angeles Galaxy ended Seattle’s 2012 season in the MLS Western Conference final.
International duty had taken four potential starters: Eddie Johnson and Brad Evans with the U.S. national team, Mario Martinez with Honduras and Adam Johansson with the Sweden.
Other players such as Osvaldo Alonso were unavailable because of flu symptoms, while others such as David Estrada tried to play through illness.
Schmid also wanted to take what might be a last look at some guys who are competing for roster spots.
Put it all together, and the Sounders opened with a lineup of goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann; defenders Zach Scott, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Djimi Traore and Leo Gonzalez; midfielders Mauro Rosales, Servando Carrasco, Lebogang Moloto and Steve Zakuani, and forwards Estrada and Sammy Ochoa. Coming on as reserves were Josh Ford, Deandre Yedlin, Shavar Thomas, Leo Lelis, Dylan Remick, Jennings Rex, Guy Essame, Marc Burch, Travis Bowen and Babayele Sodade. Several of those played unfamiliar positions.
“What we wanted to do was not play guys out of position too much, but we had to with Remick, we had to with Burch playing left midfield … as well as Jennings Rex, who’s more of a forward than he is a wide midfielder — so there’s three guys who really played out of position,” Schmid said. “… There’s guys that don’t know what their runs are, or their coordination between each other. … We had nobody around in the middle of midfield — all those guys were missing — and that’s the engine room usually.”
Portland dominated throughout, outshooting Seattle 12-1 and putting nine shots on goal to Seattle’s one. Timbers trialist Mikael Silvestre scored the game’s lone goal in the 61st minute.
After the game, the Sounders returned to the Northwest where they will enjoy a couple of days off before a couple more days of training at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila.
On Monday, the team flies back for two more weeks of training in Tucson. That visit will include four games in the Desert Diamond Cup: a round-robin against three other Major League Soccer clubs Feb. 13, 16 and 20 leading to the championship and third-place Feb. 23.
“We’re excited to come back here in a week,” Schmid said. “We’re going to be able to be here in Tucson playing games here, and that’s the next phase for us now: the game phase. We’ll do a little bit more work on Friday-Saturday in Seattle, then we’ll really concentrate on games and getting our coordination and our timing and cohesion there.”