As they have done in years past, Sounders players will spend the next week in Casa Grande, Ariz., preparing for the 2013 season while also getting to spend quality time with their teammates and coaches. And the way Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid sees it, the time players and coaches can spend together off the field is almost as valuable as the work they get done between the lines.
"It's a little bit of team building, team bonding," Schmid said. "We spend some time with each other, they spend some time with each other. ... They get together, they talk a little bit, so it's a good thing for us to get together.
"We get to know them better, we have more time to call them and have talks with them, where when it's here they're going home in between (training sessions). They're sort of a captive audience there. They've got no place to go."
And while the past week of training was important for everyone, it was especially big for young players trying to make a strong impression with the hopes of winning a roster spot. Schmid wouldn't single any players out by name, but said he has been impressed by the first impressions made by some of the roster hopefuls.
"There have been some guys who have definitely opened up our eyes and made us say, 'Hey, that guy looks pretty sharp, he's pretty good off the dribble, he's pretty quick,'" Schmid said. "The main thing you're looking for from young players is moments, then you're trying to turn those moments into periods of times. But if a guy doesn't have any moments, then there's really not much you can do. ... The spirit in camp has been good, the effort has been good, the work's been good."
Among those headed south with the team is midfielder Lamar Neagle, who returned to Seattle in a trade over the weekend. Neagle, who played for Seattle in 2009, then again in 2011, was part of last year's trade with Montreal to acquire Eddie Johnson. On Sunday, the Federal Way native was traded back to his hometown team for an international roster slot.
"It's part of the business," Neagle said of being traded away last year. "I know that. It happens all the time. I kind of felt like I was going to be back here eventually. I didn't expect it to happen this fast, but I kind of always knew that I would end up back in Seattle eventually, whether it was toward the end of my career or the middle, either one."
Ianni out 4 to 6 weeks
Schmid said an MRI on defender Patrick Ianni's injured foot revealed a slight fracture, which will likely keep him sidelined four to six weeks. Ianni's injury leaves Seattle thin at center back after trading Jeff Parke during the offseason. Veteran Zach Scott could fill in for Ianni if he was not ready for the March 2 season opener. Eriq Zavaleta, Seattle's first-round pick in this year's MLS SuperDraft, has also seen time at center back since joining Seattle last week. Zavaleta played forward in college, but Schmid said on draft day that they would look at Zavaleta as a defender as well.
Two Sounders start for U.S. team
Forward Eddie Johnson and midfielder Brad Evans both started for the U.S. National Team in a friendly against Canada Tuesday night. Johnson played 73 minutes before subbing out of the game, which ended in a 0-0 tie. Evans played the full 90 minutes, spending the first half in the midfield, then moving to right back in the second half.
Herald Writer John Boyle: email@example.com.
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