TUKWILA, Wash. — Seattle Sounders center back Patrick Ianni has steadily inched his way back to health since suffering a strange injury during the preseason, and could be in line for his first action of the season as early as next month.
Ianni played 90 minutes in the team’s 2-1 Reserve League win over the San Jose Earthquakes on Tuesday, but he now has his own body and several players on the depth chart to battle if he hopes to crack the lineup once again.
“Right now it’s a matter of getting fit,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid told reporters on Thursday. “For him, he’s in preseason, so he should be getting heavy legs now, and you expect the performance to fall a little bit. We’ve just got to get him pushed as much as we can tomorrow again and then hopefully we’ll see where he’s at next week.”
Ianni, 27, was in line for a starting spot in his fifth season with the club after the offseason trade of veteran trade of Jeff Parke, but he suffered a broken foot during the team’s typically routine jump test in January. He’s worked his way back up to this point, and the Sounders could call on him as they enter one of the busiest stretches of their season in May.
After this week’s bye, they’ll play three matches between May 4-11. With Djimi Traoré already taking a few days off training to nurse nagging injuries and no other center backs looking dominant, there could be an opening for Ianni to grab some minutes.
Nothing, however, is going to be handed to him.
“He needs to force his way into the 18 first, and once he gets there you can consider him for the rotation,” Schmid said.
At various points in his Seattle career, Ianni has looked like a potential star. He formed a solid pairing with Parke in 2010, and was then a key part of the Sounders’ stingy backline that opened the 2012 season with just three goals allowed in their first eight matches. Ianni also showed some impressive athleticism when he scored the eventual MLS Goal of the Year, a leaping side-volley against Sporting KC last season.
Ianni knows the potential is there to regain his form. Now, it’s a matter of doing it.
“It’s really just been up to me, taking care of what I need to take care of,” he said. “We’ve always had a number of good center backs, always been able to rotate guys. It’s a good place to be and have someone good next to you. That makes you look better, too.”