The Sounders begin practice already looking toward their Feb. 23 Champions League quarterfinal against Club America.

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The Seattle Sounders practiced for more than an hour and a half despite a persistent and bone-chilling winter rain on Saturday morning, prospective starters ringing the field as the newcomers hustled through one last drill.

It was the first day of practice at Starfire Sports Complex, but the Sounders already have one eye on their Champions League quarterfinal against Club America at the end of next month. Feb. 23 will be here before you know it, and its proximity inspires a sense of urgency that wasn’t as acute last January.

“You saw at the end, we were pushing some guys out, really working on their fitness,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said afterward. “… It’ll affect us in that way. Even today, tactically, we’re already talking to guys about some of the things we want to accomplish.”

It was otherwise a fairly straightforward opening day at Starfire.

A noteworthy number of fans braved the weather to welcome the players back, lining the fence and slapping hands as the players jogged from and to the locker room. Clint Dempsey showed off his fancy footwork and Stefan Frei hurled his body from left to right onto the soggy ground.

Among the newcomers, left back Joevin Jones immediately stood out thanks to his bleached-blond Mohawk, while rookies kept heads down and just tried to fit in.

The Sounders will practice in Tukwila from Monday through Wednesday, running through their annual fitness testing, before heading to Tucson, Ariz., for the Desert Friendlies. They then head to Mt. San Antonio College in Southern California before returning to the Northwest in late February.

“I never like to do testing on the first day,” Schmid said. “I always like having a day to just touch the ball again.

“I thought the intensity today was great. The spirit was good. … It was a really positive day.”

Familiar face on trial

One of the cherished rituals of MLS training camp is trying to place the unfamiliar faces sporting awkwardly high numbers with faces. The rosters are helpful, but some players are purposefully held off the list thanks to complicated ties with previous teams or for negotiation purposes.

There was no keeping one particular secret from Sounders fans of some tenure, however. Among the trialists this preseason is midfielder Nathan Sturgis, who played for the club from 2009-10. A veteran of seven MLS teams, the 28-year-old made 18 league appearances for Houston last season.

“It’s a situation where he has an interest in coming back here and we said, ‘Yeah, we’ll definitely take a look at you,’ ” Schmid said.

Scott returns

That Zach Scott was at Sounders training camp was hardly remarkable – he’s been at the last 14, after all. But the veteran defender looked destined for retirement after the club declined his contract option last month, and Seattle announced his re-signing just Saturday.

“As we go into the Champions League, that experience was important to us,” Schmid said of the 35-year-old. “Roman Torres is still injured at this point. We have Evans and we have Marshall, but other than that we’re really looking at playing young center backs. It was important for us to have cover, especially in the early season.”