After starting just two Major League Soccer matches last season, Seattle Sounders FC central midfielder Servando Carrasco has started six consecutive league games this season.
He is expected to make it seven in a row at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, when the Vancouver Whitecaps visit CenturyLink Field.
“It feels fantastic,” Carrasco said Thursday. “That’s why we train so hard, to get the opportunity to step on the pitch. Once you’re on the pitch, you have to find ways to stay on it. Fortunately we’ve been getting the results, we’ve been playing some decent football, and we’re on a good run.”
Seattle selected Carrasco in the second round of the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, 27th overall, out of the University of California.
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He made seven MLS starts as a rookie before falling off to a pair last year.
His resurrection this season arose from the Sounders’ difficulty in getting their first-choice midfield onto the pitch. Again this week, four potential midfield starters will be unavailable: Brad Evans because of national team duty, Shalrie Joseph because of disciplinary suspension, and Osvaldo Alonso and Steve Zakuani because of injury.
But there is a difference between getting a chance and making the most of it, and the latter is what coach Sigi Schmid has seen from Carrasco.
“He’s done well,” Schmid said. “He’s been steady. He’s trained well this season. He’s been in form, and when the opportunity presented itself to him, he got on the field and has played well.”
Experience with the first team could prove especially important to Carrasco and other developing players who normally get their prime opportunities in competitions such as U.S. Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League. Seattle was ousted in its first Open Cup match last week at Tampa Bay and, for the first time in three seasons, failed to qualify for the next CCL.
“(Minutes are) going to get tighter,” Carrasco said. “But at the same time, it allows us to focus on just one thing — on just one goal — and that’s to make it to the playoffs and to potentially win in MLS Cup. So it’s too early to tell right now, but maybe it’s a blessing in disguise for us.”
Carrasco was one of two Sounders to play in all 10 Reserve League matches last season. However, he said nothing prepares you for MLS like actual MLS matches.
“I learn something about myself in every game that I play in,” he said. “I know that my playing time right now is a privilege. I’m not going to take it for granted. I’m going to keep working and keep finding ways to improve in my game and helping improve the team. If I can do my job 5 percent better, 10 percent better, I’m going to find a way to do that.”
The Sounders reported that ticket sales for the Vancouver match have topped 51,000, while approximately 37,000 have been sold for the U.S. national team’s World Cup qualifier versus Panama on Tuesday. ... U.S. Soccer has moved the start time of the USA-Panama match back a half-hour to 7 p.m. Tuesday. ... General manager Adrian Hanauer said the Sounders have begun discussions to retain midfielder Mario Martinez, whose original loan agreement from Honduran club Real España expires June 30.