The Sounders returned to training Monday after receiving approval last week from government and public health officials in regard to the club’s plan to train and stay safe amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Numerous players took part in voluntary, individualized workouts at Starfire Sports in Tukwila.
“Being able to put on soccer shoes and train on our own facility is an amazing feeling,” Sounders midfielder Miguel Ibarra said via phone Tuesday. “It’s been wonderful weather, so me being out there and taking advantage of that training in the open air and not being inside the house having to train is a whole different scenario. I’m pretty sure everybody on the team is happy about that.”
The club’s practice field was divided into a grid for staggered sessions, some players opting to wear masks during drills based on photos posted by the Sounders. The safety precautions are part of the protocols initiated by Major League Soccer. The league also restricted access to indoor facilities unless needed for medical treatment and required use of PPE by training staff.
Ibarra said his workouts were approximately two hours and his plan is to participate daily.
Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer told reporters Monday the club is using this week’s sessions to gauge fitness levels. MLS suspended its season March 12 to help slow the spread of the virus, making a short afternoon session March 11 the last group training for the Sounders.
Players received workout routines via video clips and Zoom conferencing the past five weeks to stay fit.
“Zoom is a great program, loved having it, but this is way better,” Schmetzer said via video provided by the Sounders.
Not all of the Sounders players have participated in the voluntary workouts as of Tuesday.
“We know where everyone is and most of the guys are here,” Schmetzer said. “If they’re not here, I know the reason why. (Training) is voluntary, but this team is committed and we will have everybody here in camp, if you want to call it a camp, this week.”
MLS has a moratorium on group training through June 1. It permitted the individualized sessions beginning May 6 with the stipulation that doing so first aligned with local health guidelines to protect against the outbreak.
Gov. Jay Inslee extended his stay-at-home order through May 31 but has allowed some exceptions as he reopens Washington’s economy. The Sounders said they didn’t pressure the governor to allow them to train, but the club remains in constant contact with local officials about its role in slowing the virus.
The league is hoping to announce it will resume its season by June 22 — sequestering its 26 teams in Orlando, Florida to play. Details are still being discussed.
MLS teams played two games apiece before the shutdown. Seattle, which won the 2019 MLS Cup, last played March 7 against the Columbus Crew SC at CenturyLink Field.
“We’re all anxious to be able to have group training and be able to pass the ball to each other and train as a team,” Ibarra said. “Just being out there on the field now, the coaches watching us do the drills and making sure we’re doing all of the exercises correctly and leading us, that’s a big help for us.”
NOTE: The Sounders opted to utilize their approved Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan from the federal government, a source told The Seattle Times. The funds are expected to help retain a support staff of nearly 140 people through the league shutdown. Executive staff, including some coaches, took a voluntary pay cut to counter the loss of revenue and those cuts will remain.