65 days. For the defending champion Seattle Sounders, most players saw barely over two months to recover from the long 2019 title run before the 2020 season already began on Tuesday morning at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila. As the snow and hail poured down on Head Coach Brian Schmetzer and General Manager Garth Lagerwey, many returning players trained alongside guys with Tacoma Defiance and Seattle's Academy.
Training continued Wednesday with the absence of snow, to the joy of the media at least, as well as Schmetzer, Raul Ruidiaz, and Nicolas Lodeiro, who are attending MLS Media Day in Los Angeles. After visiting with Messi on vacation during the off-season, Lodeiro added to his collection of celebrity social media photos in L.A.
Back in the freezing temperatures of Tukwila, scrimmages and whistles continued as the defending champions look ahead to Southern California training next week, Mexico next month, and the first competitive match on February 20, the CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16 first leg at C.D. Olimpia in Honduras.
Meanwhile, the roster still has many holes to fill. Lagerwey said Tuesday he is still looking to add a couple impact players to the roster ahead of the season, but the lack of a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the league and players is making life difficult for himself and other General Managers working to put rosters together for the 2020 season. Without a CBA ratified, teams do not yet know how much money they will have to spend on players, if Targeted Allocation Money will exist, or how many Designated Player spots clubs will have.
Seattle also welcomed in former Orlando City SC centerback Shane O'Neill, a trailist initially who signed with the team officially on Tuesday afternoon, and former Colorado Rapids attacking winger Dillon Serna. Whether Serna joins the team in full is still a question mark during 2020 pre-season camp.
"It was a pretty easy decision to want to come here," O'Neill said. "It's about coming in and proving what I can do...and hopefully in the next couple weeks I can show that I can make an impact."
Other roster notes include defensive midfielder Jordy Delem changing his number from #21 to #8 and centerback Xavier Arreaga changing his number from #25 to #3. While O'Neill and Arreaga are currently the only two centerbacks signed to the first team roster, defensive midfielder Gustav Svensson, returning for 2020, is also a potential starter at that position as well.
Centerback Sam Rogers, after spending extended time in England over the last year between his time with Tacoma Defiance, has entered the 2020 preseason with a chance to shoot up the depth charts and earn a first team contract. But it's all about taking advantage of that chance for "Big Sam".
"He has got to grab this opportunity," Schmetzer said on Tuesday. "If the kid cannot look at the squad and say, 'This is my chance' then we're going to have an issue... He has a ton of potential, but he has to grab hold of it, work at it, and see if he's an MLS player."
Rogers spoke with Jackson Felts and Jayda Evans of The Seattle Times on Wednesday, responding to his Head Coach's challenge.
As for players not at Starfire, Cristian Roldan and Jordan Morris are training with the United States National Team and Lagerwey made it clear on Tuesday that some players from the 2019 championship squad are likely gone for good. That list included Roman Torres, now with Miami, Victor Rodriguez, who is back in Spain with family, and Kim Kee-hee, who Garth said is "probably not coming back."
Still, the core of that title team is still here, with both Lodeiro and keeper Stefan Frei leading a group that Lagerwey believes could win many games in its current form. Time will tell if they have to actually go to battle with that current roster, filled with holes.
You can watch all of Tuesday and Wednesday's press conferences featuring Lagerwey, Schmetzer, Lodeiro, Frei, O'Neill, and Assistant Coach Preki below!