SEATTLE – There were more than a few raised eyebrows when the Seattle Sounders moved up in this offseason’s Re-Entry Draft in order to select Marc Burch with the No. 1 overall pick. The veteran left back had started less than a third of D.C. United’s games over the previous two years.
But he’s gone from the whistle in each of the Sounders’ first two games, and is in line for a third start on Saturday against the San Jose Earthquakes (10 pm ET; watch LIVE online). So it’s looking like the gamble has paid off.
WATCH: Burch, Flaco set up Estrada
“It’s the guy I expected to see,” head coach Sigi Schmid said after Thursday’s training session. “As you saw the other night, he’s a good passer of the ball out of the back. That’s one of the qualities that he brings to our team. He’s a pretty steady defender. He doesn’t go flying forward as much as some outside backs do, but that’s okay.”
Although Burch started off his professional career as a forward, and played there when Schmid was his coach with the Columbus Crew back in 2006 and 2007, he’s now content to play mostly on the defensive side of midfield. That doesn’t mean he can’t affect the offense, though, as the Sounders have found out.
Burch has so far picked up one assist – matching his total from the past two seasons combined – but he could easily have two or three more as he’s helped spark several strong goal-scoring opportunities.
“I've always been a guy who likes to play balls out of the back, look for runners and play balls from a little bit more of a distance,” he said. “I like to have early crosses from deeper and play people in."
The partnership he’s formed with Álvaro Fernández has looked especially promising. His assist came on a short pass to Fernández that then turned into a David Estrada goal in the 3-1 win over Toronto FC, and he’s helped set up the left-sided midfielder a couple other times.
"Yeah, it's all Flaco really,” Burch said, noting that the only common language that he and Fernández need is that of soccer. “The way he shows to the ball, the way he can make a defender think he's going in and then he goes out – it's amazing.
"He just times his runs right, he checks out the right way, he checks in the right way, and you know every time you get him the ball he's going to control it and do something with it. It's been pretty easy for me to play with him."
Injury updates: Of the four injured Sounders who would otherwise be expected to feature, central midfielder Brad Evans was the only one fit enough to be deemed a “game-time decision” by Schmid.
The coach was less optimistic about midfielder Mauro Rosales and right back Adam Johansson, both of whom missed last week’s game. Forward Eddie Johnson, who has yet to make a league appearance with the Sounders, is likely to play in this Sunday’s reserve game against Gonzaga. Considering the play of Estrada in his place, though, there’s not as much of a rush to get him back.
Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.