BY Stanley Holmes 05:11PM 02/17/2011

Sounders rookie playing without fear

Rookie Servando Carrasco’s style of play is similar to Osvaldo Alonso. Will that be enough?

Servando Carrasco battling for spot in training / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

When Servando Carrasco was growing up he always had one foot in Tijuana and one foot in San Diego.

In the ever-evolving diaspora of Major League Soccer, you can say that Carrasco might be a truly two-footed player. He learned how to dribble in Mexico. He learned how to play the game in America.

“I got more of the technical aspect of the game in Mexico and the more tactical stuff came in the United States,” Carrasco said. “I got the best of both worlds and that’s what really got me here.”

The evolution of Carrasco is a fascinating juxtaposition that just might work for the young Mexican-American who was drafted 27th overall in the second round by the Seattle Sounders. The technically proficient defensive midfielder has an edge to his game. He plays without fear and he likes to take charge — and he has the skills to push forward and score. He’ll take the shot, if he gets half a second.

“I think my performance has been good but you can always play better,” he said. “I feel like the the transition on this team has been smoother because the guys are so welcoming.”

Carrasco is one of 13 players battling for a roster spot. He will be traveling to Florida with the team where coach Sigi Schmid will then have to make some hard decisions and trim the roster to 28 by March 1.

Schmid said Carrasco is certainly pushing for a spot. But he still has much to learn, especially playing the holding midfielder role at the pro level. It is a challenging position at the best of times.

“He’s got a great upside, he’s a good kid, he works really hard, and he fits in tremendously with the group,” Schmid said.

Carrasco is already being compared to Seattle’s current holding midfielder, Osvaldo Alonso, who is considered to be one of the league’s best in his position. Carrasco is impressed by Alonso’s sense of timing, how well he reads the game. Defensive midfielder takes a certain type of player. Carrasco seems to have a good handle on the task.

“At the defensive midfielder spot, you need a leader, a leader who sees the entire field,” he said. “I’m able to distribute with both feet, long passes, short passes, and I’m also aggressive when it comes to defending. You also need somebody who can win the ball. I think I do that pretty well.”

Carrasco, articulate and confident, knows he faces challenging odds but that serves to motivate him to play even better. He doesn’t seem to wilt under the pressure but rather he thrives.

This inner drive probably came from when San Diego Surf soccer club — one of the most competitive in California — cut him when he was nine, at a tryout. Getting cut prompted him to improve so when he returned for tryouts (at his own age) he made the team. He played for Surf for the next 10 years.

Then, following high school, he spent some time in Argentina at a professional academy, where he trained twice a day. But when he learned his mom had breast cancer he returned to Tijuana to stay close to home. His best friend, AJ Soares, a defender drafted by New England Revolution in the first round, suggested he talk to the coaches at University of California-Berkeley, where Soares had committed.

Carrasco accepted a scholarship and joined his friend “AJ.”  They have known each other since they were eight. Carrasco and Soares first met on the Surf team and became so close that he often stayed at the Soares house in San Diego after practice rather than making the long trip back to Tijuana.

“We really see each other as brothers. We’ve known each other for 13 years,” Carrasco said. “His family is like my second family. We spend Christmas and holidays together. They’re a great family.”

But now it’s all business, as Carrasco tries to prove to the coaches that his style of play — one foot planted firmly in Mexico and the other planted in America — can bring something fresh and vital to the Sounders.

He’s already adjusting to the biggest difference between college and playing in the pros — the speed of play.

“In college you have a lot more time on the ball,” he said. “Here you get pressured much, much quicker. But you just rise to the occasion. I’m glad with how I’m improving and how the team is improving.”


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