I spoke to Sounders FC midfielder Servando Carrasco a couple weeks ago, an interview well before he started the past two games against Philadelphia and Sporting Kansas City.
It wasn’t hard to tell what the 24 year old was feeling.
“I’m just staying patient, staying hungry, and taking advantage of whatever opportunities there are. Whether it’s reserve games or practice, I’m just trying to make the most of it.”
“I know that I’ll get my opportunity, and I’ll take advantage of it when it comes.”
“You have to wait for your turn, and when it comes, take advantage of it.”
“Once that opportunity presents itself, then I’ll be ready to take advantage of it.”
Those were parts of responses to four different questions.
Lo and behold, the chance finally came in back-to-back starts. And according to coach Sigi Schmid, Carrasco made the most of it.
Schmid, after the Union game, said “he stepped up and had his opportunity and took his opportunity well.” The coach then specifically mentioned Carrasco in this radio interview Thursday on KJR-AM as someone he thought had “a really, really good game” against Kansas City.
Carrasco hadn’t started two-straight MLS games since May 14 and 21 of 2011, his rookie season. He only made two starts in all of 2012.
At the time of the interview, Carrasco’s player bio looked like this:
2011: 12 games, 7 starts, 689 minutes
2012: 9 games, 2 starts, 235 minutes
2013: 1 game, 0 starts, 6 minutes
“Just staying ready,” he said then. “It’s a long season and you never know what’s going to happen.”
If anyone noticed Sounders FC’s depth at center midfield, it was Carrasco. He fell behind Andy Rose, it appeared, last season (though that looks to be switched at the present). Then add MLS great Shalrie Joseph this year to a position group that also includes regulars like Osvaldo Alonso and Brad Evans, and there wasn’t going to be much playing time to spare.
Carrasco understood that.
“To be honest, (Alonso and Joseph are) two of the best guys for me to learn from,” he said. “In training, I’m just trying to be a sponge around them. Shalrie is arguably the best defensive midfielder in MLS history — and now it’s Ozzie. In a way, it’s kind of being a backup quarterback. You have to wait for your turn, and when it comes, take advantage of it. I’m grateful to be here. To learn from those two guys, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Asked if it’s been frustrating waiting, Carrasco said “absolutely.”
“It’s obviously much easier said than done, but I know at the end of the day, I’ll keep improving and finding ways to push myself onto the field,” he continued. “I know that the hard work will pay off. … I have to worry about the things I can control, and that’s my attitude and trying to be a good teammate to the guys.”
Schmid said a couple weeks ago that he knew Carrasco was getting frustrated. The coach went on to explain that third-year player had been steady in the reserve games: “He hasn’t like knocked your socks off. He hasn’t been poor either.”
“You just have to continue to do that and you hope for the opportunity to come along,” the coach went on. “But he’s a good pro in the sense that he comes out and works hard every day, trains hard. It’s hard to do it when you don’t see playing time necessarily around the corner, so stay focused, stay in the moment, stay motivated all the time. It’s a tribute to his character as much as anything.”
It’s certainly possible Carrasco’s role could be reduced going forward. Alonso is back from the birth of his daughter, Paulina, which led to one of Carrasco’s start. Joseph will likely return from his injury sometime soon, if not Saturday against San Jose (we’ll get an update after Friday’s practice). Rose could push for that spot, too.
It’s also possible Carrasco could continue to get opportunities. Schmid has mentioned Rose being in a bit of a sophomore slump. Evans could be gone for an extended period if he makes the U.S. men’s national team’s roster for World Cup qualifiers or the Gold Cup this summer. Joseph hasn’t been able to stay healthy, either.
Expect to see the same guy either way.
“As long as I’m here, I’m focused on what’s in front of me. That’s the Sounders,” Carrasco said. “That’s the only thing I think about. If my role is to be a practice player, a reserve player, play in the U.S. Open Cup, I’ll embrace my role and do my role to the best of my ability, and that’s most important thing.”