Entering as a first-half injury substitute when your team already trails 2-0 probably isn’t the ideal scenario for a debut. But that was the case for Sounders FC midfielder Gonzalo Pineda in Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Toronto.
The former Mexican international saw his first MLS action as a replacement for Brad Evans, who left with a calf injury, and served as a distributor in central midfield as Seattle chased the game.
So what were Pineda’s takeaways?
“I’m supposed to enjoy my first game, but it’s hard when we lost,” he said in the locker room. “I tried to enjoy being on the field, but right now I’m not that happy because we lost at home. (Although) we lost … this is my first game, and I’m glad to be here in MLS and so glad to be here with the Sounders. It’s a great team with a great crowd, and I’m happy to be part of that.”
Pineda added that the circumstances of his debut, as noted above, made it particularly challenging but noted that the team’s play improved in the second half. The main issue for him going forward is improving fitness following a long injury layoff.
“I’m not 100 percent because, as you know, I had like 10 months out of the field,” Pineda said. “It’s hard, but the coaches are very good. They are helping me a lot to be 100 percent. I think two or three more weeks could be in best shape. I’m working hard and I hope I can do that.”
Coach Sigi Schmid said he chose Pineda as the substitute over someone like Andy Rose, who was also on the bench, because he felt the Sounders would be able to control possession in their comeback efforts, which suited Pineda’s strengths.
“I thought Gonzalo did well for us,” Schmid said. “Obviously he is still new to our team … and he’s not 90-minutes fit yet at this stage. He still needs to gain a little bit on his fitness, but I thought his passing helped us. His vision is good.”
An update on Evans’ recovery time will hopefully be provided after Monday’s practice, but certainly it seems like Pineda stands to play a significant role for the team going forward.