Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid says if the Sounders don't accomplish their goal of winning the MLS Cup, it might be time to break up the core of the team.
TUKWILA — Even an MLS offseason known for being painfully short couldn’t end soon enough for some Sounders FC players. Not after the team suffered its worst disappointment in an early 2010 playoff exit.
The two-month wait to get back to action ended Tuesday with an energized start to training camp at the Starfire Sports Complex.
“Those of us who walked off the field at the Home Depot Center in November, we’d been looking forward to this day for a while,” said midfielder Steve Zakuani, referencing a season-ending loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy in the Western Conference semifinals.
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“It’s a chance to start again fresh.”
The goal for Seattle in Year 3 is a familiar one: win an MLS Cup championship.
The team’s veteran core is also much the same from Sounders FC’s first two seasons, but that stands to change if expectations aren’t met.
“This is the year that if we don’t accomplish some of the things we feel we can accomplish then you’ve got to start looking at breaking up that core,” said coach Sigi Schmid, who counted 17 players that have been with the team since its inaugural season in a pre-practice roll call.
So far the preseason is already off to a more stable start than last year. Twelve months ago there were looming issues over an expiring collective bargaining agreement and an absentee designated player in Freddie Ljungberg.
Day 1 this year had a different feel.
“The attitude looks solid,” said goalkeeper Kasey Keller, who has announced he’ll retire after the season.
Said Schmid: “I thought the spirit was good. I thought the intensity was good. Everybody showed up to play.”
Camp opened with roughly 40 players and a number of new faces, most notably Swedish midfielder Erik Friberg and forward O’Brian White, formerly of Toronto FC. A group of rookies and invitees new to training will have to quickly learn what’s expected from the trophy-hungry club.
“You want to make them feel welcome and you want to make sure they understand the Sounders’ standard,” Zakuani said.
Not even the introduction of its two natural rivals — the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps join MLS this season — will detract Seattle from its ambitious aim.
“I know it sounds terrible, but I’d lose those four (regular-season) games and win the rest of it and win the MLS championship all day long,” said Keller, who was booed recently at a Portland Trail Blazers game. “That’s not the plan, obviously, but our goal is to get to the playoffs, get out of the first round, get to the next round and win the championship. That’s our goal.”
One day down. Ten months to go.
Citing a desire to try something “different from Europe,” Friberg said he’s looking forward to his MLS initiation with Sounders FC. But first the 24-year-old midfielder, who previously played for BK Hacken in Sweden, needs to shake off some rust.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve played now but it’s going to get better and better,” he said.
• Forwards Nate Jaqua and Pat Noonan did not participate Tuesday as they recover from offseason surgeries. Defender Taylor Graham also did not practice.
• When asked if any newcomers impressed in their first day, Schmid smiled and said, “Yeah, but that’s for me to keep to myself right now.”
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org