Sounders FC newcomers, like Michael Gspurning and Adam Johansson, know all about the team's expectations for success.
It’s no secret that three seasons of landmark success mixed with disappointing finishes have resulted in an insatiable thirst for success within Sounders FC, particularly among those that have been with the team since the beginning.
Midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, a two-time team MVP, said this is the year the Sounders have to advance out of the first round of the MLS playoffs.
Have to, he repeated at the opening of training camp, and he’s far from alone in that sentiment.
But while Year 4 is bursting with expectation, it is also one of change. Nine players are gone from last season — more than half of whom were “original” MLS Sounders. And in their place, the team has signed five new players who will need to make an immediate impact — notably goalkeeper Michael Gspurning and defender Adam Johansson, who are set to slide into the starting lineup.
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So how do the expectations of a trophy-hungry franchise transfer to new signings?
“A lot of it is up to the players that are here; those players need to convey that to them,” said coach Sigi Schmid. “But generally when you’re dealing with high-quality players — and Gspurning is a high-quality player and Johansson is, as well — they usually come with a pretty strong ego. They want to be successful and they want to do well.”
Johansson isn’t unfamiliar with expectations of success. The 28-year-old joined the Sounders in Arizona after serving with the Swedish national team. With IFK Goteborg, he helped win a Swedish league title in 2007 and a Swedish Cup, the equivalent of the U.S. Open Cup, in 2008.
“I’m used to that; I come from Goteborg and they want to win every game, every competition,” Johansson said. “That’s not new for me. I hope to come here and win a lot of titles.”
Gspurning has had less success on the club level, but learned a lot about the Sounders’ standard before camp opened. During the offseason, some players decided to scrimmage on their own after a gym workout.
The game was supposed to end once one team scored 11 goals. Instead, they played for 90 minutes.
“I really can say, after playing many years of professional soccer, this was really unbelievable,” said the 6-foot-5 Gspurning. “The team is hungry. … I’m really glad to be on a team with a good spirit.”
Just a few days into preseason, fellow newcomers Marc Burch and Cordell Cato said they knew the Sounders’ expectations centered on winning the MLS Cup.
And that standard, Schmid said, is established through hard work.
“When the (new players) come in and see that, they know we don’t take shortcuts, we don’t take plays off in practice, we’re focused and we’re intense and we’re into the moment all the time,” the coach said. “That’s how they get conveyed that feeling on how to practice and how to play. These are our goals. We don’t accept mediocrity and we don’t accept losing.”
Training game ends in 1-1 tie
Forward Sammy Ochoa scored a 53rd-minute goal to help Sounders FC salvage a 1-1 tie in a training game Monday against Orlando City SC, a USL Pro team. The match was played at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
Seattle played its starters in the first of three 30-minute periods, but fell behind in the 27th minute on a goal by OCSC’s Dennis Chin. Sounders reserves played the final 60 minutes and nearly found a late winner, but midfielder Servando Carrasco’s penalty kick in the 87th minute was denied by the crossbar.
Sounders FC has more training games this week against the Columbus Crew (Wednesday) and the U.S. U-17 national team (Thursday).
• Forward O’Brian White (blood clots) and goalkeeper Josh Ford (knee) didn’t travel with the team to Florida and will continue recovery efforts in Seattle.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @joshuamayers.