Those weekly yoga sessions the Sounders FC held via videoconference calls during quarantine to retain fitness are providing another service.
The club has to rise early Tuesday – about 7 a.m., in Florida, which converts to 4 a.m. in their home base Seattle – to play a second preliminary-round match in Major League Soccer’s return to play amid the pandemic. But the trick is getting to sleep to wake up ready to perform.
Lessons from Jake Bronowski, the Sounders’ in-house yoga instructor and massage therapist, were given to help.
Seattle (0-0-1) kicks off against the Chicago Fire FC (0-0-0) in Group B of the MLS is Back Tournament at 6 a.m. PT. The match from ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex, which is southwest of Orlando, Florida, will also air on the network.
MLS designed the schedule to have either morning or night matches due to the heat and humidity in central Florida.
“(Jake) is teaching them techniques, how to shut your body down,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said via videoconference call with media Monday afternoon. “We are pulling out all of the stops to get them to be in a good physical state.”
Sounders keeper Stefan Frei said the work started after the tournament opener Friday night. The Rave Green finished in a scoreless draw against the San Jose Earthquakes. Frei had eight saves in the match.
“One of the challenges is getting on a different sleeping schedule,” Frei said via videoconference call with media Friday. “We put a lot of effort out there (Friday), so fluids, fluids, fluids and good nutrition is important as well, so we want to make sure that we do that.”
The Sounders collected a 2-1 win against Chicago in their 2020 league opener March 1 at CenturyLink Field. Seattle, coming off dropping a CONCACAF Champions League opening series against CD Olimpia, was flat against the Fire until the second half when forward Jordan Morris was inserted in the match.
Schmetzer didn’t give Morris the start as a precautionary measure. The latter burst onto the field after the break, scoring in the 62nd minute for the equalizer and in second-half stoppage time for the win.
Tuesday’s rematch wasn’t the original plan. Chicago, which is making their tournament debut, was moved to Group B to replace FC Dallas after they and Nashville SC were withdrawn due to multiple COVID-19 positive cases being found. Seattle was set to play Dallas on Wednesday.
Chicago has made some tweaks during MLS’s suspension of the season that began March 12 to help slow the spread of the virus. The Fire also didn’t get minutes in its two league matches for Designated Players in midfielders Gaston Gimenez and Ignacio Aliseda. Defender Boris Sekulic, midfielder Luka Stojanovic and forward CJ Sapong are also intriguing players yet to make an appearance for Chicago.
“I think you’re going to see a different team,” Schmetzer said via videoconference call. “We scouted Gimenez, one of the players that they signed down in Argentina this winter and he is a tremendous player. (Chicago) has a good squad now.
“You could say that cohesion is a vital part of a team sport and they’ve had their full complement of players long enough to find (that). Balance that with the energy and enthusiasm of this is their first game, we’ll see what we come up against.”
The Sounders will again be without their Designated Player, midfielder Joao Paulo. He’s out with a strained quad. It was Joao Paulo’s corner kick that set up Morris’ game-winning score against Chicago in March.
“(Chicago) is going to come out with very fresh legs because they haven’t had a game,” Sounders midfielder Gustav Svensson said via videoconference call with media Monday. “(Friday) was a hard game for us to play because we hadn’t played a game in four months and it was humidity that we weren’t used to. Now that we have played a game, I think it’s to our advantage. …We had a training at 9 a.m. and it’s hard. (Tuesday) is going to be very hard. But it’s the same for both teams so you have to man-up and deal with it.”