By Don Ruiz The News Tribune
Three key Seattle Sounders returned to the club Saturday, exactly three weeks before the start of the Major League Soccer season.
Forward Eddie Johnson, midfielder Brad Evans and defender Adam Johansson worked at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila for the first time after spending the first part of preseason with their national teams.
“It’s good just to have those guys back,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “You can tell the spirit of the team has picked up a little bit, as well. I thought (Saturday) was a good practice. Guys played with a lot of enthusiasm, and we got a lot of work out of it.”
The three returning players said their international duty, combined with coming work with the club, should allow them to be well-prepared for the start of the regular season March 2, when Montreal visits CenturyLink Field.
“Starting playing games early is really important,” Johansson said of his time away with Sweden. “I feel in really good shape.”
Still, there was some adjusting as even these veteran Sounders felt a bit like newcomers.
“It’s like coming to the first day of school: getting excited, meeting new guys,” Johansson said. “There are a lot of new faces. … Whenever you’re playing small-sided like this — 5 vs. 5 — there are three guys I’ve never met before. … But then again, part of the game is learning new players as you build into the team.”
The incoming players were confronted not only with the presence of new teammates but with the absence of some old ones.
Gone is forward Fredy Montero, who had been a teammate of Evans’ since the expansion season in 2009. Also gone is defender Jeff Parke, who often played just inside of Johansson.
“It’s the ebbs and flows of soccer,” Evans said. “You’re going to have a group of guys together for a number of years and then things end up changing. … We start fresh. It’s unfortunate to see top-quality guys go, but we will get the job done.”
The Sounders’ fourth international player — midfielder Mario Martinez — had an excused absence while tending to personal matters in Honduras. He will join the club this week in Tucson, Ariz.
Joseph returns to Chivas
Saturday also marked what might have been the final day of training with seven-time All-Star midfielder Shalrie Joseph.
Chivas USA gave the Sounders permission to work with Joseph for a couple of days. However, that agreement has ended, and so has Joseph’s time with the Sounders unless a trade is struck.
Schmid sounded skeptical about that happening.
“I’m sure we’re going to sit down and talk to them,” he said. “But there are a lot of hurdles to jump over and hoops to go through in order to make that happen. … I’m sure there’s a number of other teams that probably have an interest in him; but it’s all going to come down a little bit to what Chivas wants to do, what Shalrie wants to do as well. But at the end of the day, it’s something that it would be great if it happens, expectations are that it’s probably not going to happen.”
Central defender Patrick Ianni’s injured right foot remains in a protective boot. He was limited to work on a stationary bike Saturday. ? Servando Carrasco (concussion) is expected to be fully cleared by the time the club resumes training in Tucson on Tuesday. ? The club is off today and will fly to Arizona on Monday. Schmid said some players will be released before the team departs.