The Seattle Sounders opened their full training camp on Tuesday at Starfire in Tukwila as they prepare for the 2011 season. The first thing that stood out was the sheer number of players the Sounders were working out -- nearly 40 in all. Among them were familiar faces, offseason acquisitions and players on trial, battling for a spot on the Sounders' roster. It led to many "who is that?" moments throughout the morning as everyone got to know the Sounders all over again.
While the bulk of the starting and reserve spots are all but decided, head coach Sigi Schmid said the team was taking a good hard look at the newcomers, seeing if any could bring something to the team.
"You're looking for somebody who has something a little special. Somebody who can add something that maybe you're missing or don't have and I think a couple of guys have shown that." Schmid said. "We need to add some guys because our roster expands. So I feel pretty good about the quality of the players we're looking at to fill those spots."
The Sounders will have a full schedule again this year, with the full MLS slate, the CONCACAF Champions League and a defense of their US Open Cup title all on the docket. The rigorous schedule makes depth crucial for the Sounders, who have lofty goals for the 2011 season.
"This is the year now you've gotta step forward. We're one of four teams that have made the playoffs the last two years. But in four playoff games we scored one goal. So, we need to score more goals in the playoffs." Schmid said before looking to the future. "This is the year that if we don't accomplish some of the things that we feel we can accomplish you've gotta start looking at breaking up that core, so this is an important year."
Perhaps the biggest offseason acquisition was 24-year-old Swede Erik Friberg. He's not flashy -- despite looking liken 80s tennis star, as one reporter said -- but he gives the Sounders a boost in the midfield. With winger Sanna Nyassi and central midfielder Nathan Sturgis gone, Friberg is the type of player that could, and should, immediately make an impact as competition begins.
For now, though, Friberg is busy adjusting to American culture and the Sounders. Like many others, the fanbase in Seattle were a draw for Friberg, who was looking for a change of pace at 24-years-old.
"I wanted to try something different from Europe and I think it's gonna be good." Friberg said. "I know that [the Sounders] have huge fans, like 40,000, so it's fantastic."
The Sounders will continue training at Starfire before breaking camp and heading to Arizona to get down for more rigorous sections.
Plagued by injuries that limited the team last season, the Sounders are relatively healthy this year, with almost everyone fully participating on the first day. Nate Jaqua, still recovering from surgery, Taylor Graham, who was dealing with "something" and Pat Noonan were not involved in training, but are expected to be back soon. Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Brad Evans were both back and participated in all drills. Schmid said the Sounders are bringing White and Blaise Nkufo along slowly as the team sees how they respond to the rigors of camp, as well.
O'Brian White made his presence known early in the 9-on-9 drills, hammering a volley off the crossbar and in on one of his first touches ... The Sounders are working with four goalkeepers in training: Kasey Keller, Terry Boss, Bryan Meredith and Josh Ford. Ford and Meredith stayed on the field for a lengthy amount of time after practice, making the most of the extra practice time ... Tuesday was the first day of full camp, and the first day the media was at practice. The newcomers have been training with the team for a week and were joined by the veterans on Tuesday.
Check out Kirsten Schlewitz's quick review of the offseason moves to get caught up on the Sounders. For more on training camp, stay tuned to our StoryStream as the Sounders head toward the season. For all your Sounders needs, including interviews, profiles and more from camp, visit SB Nation's Sounder At Heart.