By John Boyle Herald Writer
TUKWILA — For most of his first two years with the Seattle Sounders, Servando Carrasco’s playing time was tied pretty closely to the availability of fellow midfielder Osvaldo Alonso.
And seeing as Alonso is the franchise leader in games started, appearances and minutes played, Carrasco’s opportunities have been few and far between since he was drafted by Seattle in the second round of the 2011 MLS SuperDraft. Then Seattle added Shalrie Joseph, widely regarded as one of the best defensive midfielders in MLS history, and 2013 figured to be another tough year for Carrasco when it came to earning playing time.
But Joseph has battled injuries this season, so when Alonso missed a game earlier this month for the birth of his second child, Carrasco, who has performed well in reserve-league games, got the call. Carrasco played well enough in that 2-2 draw in Philadelphia that Sounders coach Sigi Schmid gave him a start alongside Alonso the following weekend.
Another strong performance — and more importantly, another victory, led to another start, then another still. Suddenly Carrasco, a player who started just two games in MLS play in all of 2012, has started four straight. Considering the Sounders are 3-0-1 with him in the lineup, having outscored opponents 11-4, and that Alonso is now battling an abductor strain, Carrasco is very likely to make it five straight starts when the Sounders play in Los Angeles on Sunday.
“Servando has done well in training, and when the opportunity came along with Ozzie missing a game due to the birth of his daughter, we felt that Servando was the next guy up based on what he had done in training,” Schmid said. “Then his game performance was good, so he got another game. He had another good game, and got another game, and he’s done all right. It’s all about the performance at training giving you that opportunity, but he’s done well in games.
“I think his passing decisions have been pretty good. He’s always a guy that doesn’t avoid many tackles — he likes to get in and try to win the ball back for your team. He’s done that really well.”
Carrasco, 24, obviously wishes he had been playing more prior to this recent run, but he didn’t let his time on the bench get him down. Instead he has spent the last two-plus years learning from Alonso, and in recent months, from Joseph as well.
“You’re always going to have that frustration factor, but it’s how you funnel that frustration,” Carrasco said. “I funneled it into something positive, I kept working hard and learned from the guys in front of me.
“Shalrie and Ozzie are tremendous professionals. From Day 1 since I’ve been here, Ozzie has been a perfect role model for me, a guy who I can kind of mold my style of play after. Since Day 1, I’ve been taking tendencies from his game and tried to apply (them) to my game. He’s hands down the best defensive midfielder in the game, so to play alongside him has been tremendous.”
The fact that Carrasco has played well alongside Alonso for two-plus games is the best news for his long-term prospects for playing time.
For a week or two, Carrasco or Joseph likely will be Alonso’s replacement, but once Alonso is healthy, the three-time team MVP will go right back to being a fixture in the lineup. In the past, those rare times Alonso and Carrasco have played together has come with Carrasco playing above Alonso in the formation, which isn’t his most natural position. When they’ve shared the field this year, they’ve at times both played a more defensive midfield position side by side, and at other times Carrasco’s presence has allowed Alonso to push up a bit more.
“The understanding of each other’s movements has been a lot better, and it’s going to get better as we play more games together,” Carrasco said of sharing the central midfield with Alonso. “That familiarity is only going to get better. Before we played more of him playing behind and me playing in front or vice versa, but now it’s more side by side.
“We complement each other’s style of play, I like to play a long ball and stretch the game out, but defensively it’s going to be hard to come through the midfield, because we’re very aggressive when it comes to defending. … For me it was trying find a way that I could add something different to his play. His ball-winning skills, his short passes, they’re top class. Anything I can take from his game and implement into my game, I’ll do it in a second.”
Evan added to U.S. roster
Midfielder Brad Evans was added to the U.S. National Team roster for the upcoming round of World Cup qualifiers. He joins teammate Eddie Johnson, who was named to the roster when the squad was announced last week.
Evans has made seven appearances with the National Team, playing both as a midfielder and a right back, the latter position being where he is more likely to see playing time if he does get on the field. He will be one of the least-experienced players in terms of national team appearances on a U.S. roster that consists of several players who play professionally in Europe’s top leagues.
The U.S. has three qualifiers in June, including a June 11 game against Panama at CenturyLink Field. And while this call-up is a good step for Evans, he isn’t getting ahead of himself and dreaming a spot on the 2014 World Cup team just yet.
“That’s very, very far off into the future in my view,” he said. “I’m still a fringe player in my mind, and until I prove otherwise, that’s where my mindset is. Obviously there are aspirations and there are goals, but right now being a standby player and waiting to get that call, that’s where your mind is. You perform for your club, then you hopefully get called up by the national team and show the best that you can, and whatever happens happens. But at this point I’ve just got to focus on this Sunday, then once we get into camp we’ll settle in and see where it goes from there.
Herald Writer John Boyle: email@example.com.