MANATEE -- The goal in any preseason game, no matter the sport, is to work the kinks out and keep players injury-free for the grind that awaits.
On Wednesday, the Seattle Sounders and Columbus Crew battled like it was a regular-season contest rather than a friendly at IMG Academies.
There were three red cards issued for dangerous play and several yellows as the Sounders claimed a 2-0 victory.
Nonetheless, the match between the two Major League Soccer franchises provided fans with expert skill to go with brute physicality.
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The clubs are heading in different directions after Wednesday’s scrimmage.
The Sounders completed their third training match, the second at IMG, as they prep for a two-leg contest against Mexican giants Santos Laguna in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals starting in early March.
Both matches against Santos are before the Sounders’ MLS opener.
“At this stage, normally we probably wouldn’t have pushed our starters 75 minutes,” Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid said. “Probably would have pushed them about 60. But we wanted to push them 75, because we have to push them 90 next week.”
That next week includes a trip to Cancun to face Mexican club Atlante. But first, the Sounders will play the United States Men’s National Team U-17s at 10 a.m. today and Florida Gulf Coast University at 4 p.m. Sunday. Both matches are at IMG Academies in Bradenton.
“We’re probably 60, 70 percent of the way of where we want to be in terms of our first game against Santos,” Schmid said.
Meanwhile, the Crew are wrapping up what head coach Robert Warzycha called “the first phase.”
That portion of Columbus’ preseason is over as the club departed Bradenton for Charleston, S.C. about a month away from the start of the 2012 MLS season.
“We worked on the fitness here,” Warzycha said. “... We’re going to work a little bit more on the technical side (there).”
Seattle isn’t new to training at IMG, having done it last year. The facilities, along with some nice weather, were more than enough to woo the Sounders back.
“We were trying to get a game in Mexico for the latter part of February, so we figured this would be a good stopping-off point,” Schmid said. “It’s a lot easier flight to go from here to Mexico than Seattle.”
The sides played two 45-minute periods and a 30-minute period, with Seattle scoring the only two goals of the match.
During the second 45-minute period, Fredy Montero flashed his aerial talents with a free header that found twine and gave the Colombian his first goal of the 2012 preseason.
“He’s been our leading goal scorer over the three years of the franchise,” Schmid said. “He had 18 goals last year in all competitions. For us to be successful, we need him to get on the board and score goals. ... You saw how good his body control is in the air. He’s a good header of the ball.”
The preseason is aimed at improving to be ready for the matches that matter, but Montero said the victory was important.
“We are happy with this game and for me, I score a goal and had some very good play,” the 24-year-old forward said. “At the end of the day, we won the game. That is important.”