TUKWILA, Wash. — When discussing the Sounders crowded midfield, one must not forget rookie Servando Carrasco. The defensive midfielder, primarily used as a late-game defensive reinforcement, has shown well when inserted into the starting lineup so far this season.
An engaging and competitive personality, Carrasco recently chatted with MLSsoccer.com about his journey to the professional level, his friendship with New England’s A.J. Soares and growing up straddling the US-Mexico border.
MLSsoccer.com: What was your early life like in San Diego and Tijuana?
I was born in San Diego but grew up in Tijuana. I went to school my entire life in San Diego, just across the border. We had a nice little carpool system, which worked out pretty nice. I grew up in Tijuana and played my club ball for San Diego Surf.
MLSsoccer.com: So you have dual citizenship with Mexico and the United States?
Carrasco: Yes, I do. I’m trying to get triple citizenship because my mom is full Spanish.
MLSsoccer.com: You decided to go to Argentina after high school.
Carrasco: My senior year of high school, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to play college ball or pursue my professional career, so I took that semester off and went to Argentina to train at CEFAR [Centro de Entrenamiento para Futbolistas de Alto Rendimiento], which is a professional academy. You don’t get paid though, so it doesn’t count against your NCAA eligibility. I was there for four months and then I decided to come back.
During that time, my best friend, A.J. Soares, who plays for New England, accepted a scholarship to UC Berkeley that following semester. The coach called me and said, "What are your plans for the spring? Do you want to go to college?" I said I would think about it. Two days later, I was up at UC Berkeley.
MLSsoccer.com: What was the process from college to Major League Soccer like?
Carrasco: We had a very successful season at Berkeley. We lost in the Elite 8 against Akron, the team who ended up winning [the College Cup]. That was a good showcase for the seniors—we put ourselves in a good position with some MLS teams. I guess they knew us coming into the Combine.
Overall, I think we all performed pretty well. All the seniors who went to the Combine got picked up by a team and got signed, so that’s huge for the Cal program. The Combine was tough; you’re playing three games in four days. It’s tough physically, but you get through it.
[inline_node:334383]MLSsoccer.com: You made it through a difficult preseason to earn a spot on the roster. What was your first game action like?
Carrasco: Oh my God, I loved it. My first official game was against the New York Red Bulls, which I started. Playing against Thierry Henry and Rafa Márquez, those players you grew up watching, was a dream come true. Unfortunately we didn’t get the result on the road, but I think overall it was a good team performance. We built on that. I’m very happy where we are now, we just need to keep improving and getting better in practice.
MLSsoccer.com: You’re in a position where you are sometimes called upon as a substitute to protect a late lead. How are you adapting to that role?
Carrasco: Wherever I can get minutes, I’m always going to come in and do my best. I understand my role on the team—if we’re up 1-0 or 2-0, I’m going to come in and work hard because that’s what I do well. In those situations, when I get the opportunity to come in, I’m going to make the best of it.
MLSsoccer.com: You have a chance in Seattle to interact with Osvaldo Alonso. What is your relationship like with him?
Carrasco: Personally, I may be a little biased because we’re on the same team, but I think he’s the best defensive midfielder in the entire league. Watching him day-in and day-out in practice, you really get a feel for the things that people don’t really see in games. He’s extremely fast, extremely technical with the ball. I know as I spend more time next to him, I’m going to learn a lot. If the coaches decide to pair us up in the middle, awesome. But I’m here to learn and take any opportunity that presents itself.
MLSsoccer.com: There are some quieter players in the Sounders starting 11. How do on-field communications work and how does being bilingual help you communicate with the other players?
Carrasco: I’m not the quiet person. I’m the one who yells a lot on the field and gives positive reinforcement when it’s necessary. Playing in that defensive midfielder spot, you need a leader on and off the field. When I come onto the field, I’m very vocal.
I think that’s a benefit of having me and Ozzie on the field. He’s a little quieter but he sees the field extremely well. When we’re paired in there together, he can see things that I can’t see but again, we’re able to communicate more efficiently. Whatever the combination, we have so much talent on this team. We’re going to do well.
MLSsoccer.com: What’s the mood of the team heading into the match at Colorado on Friday?
Carrasco: We’re just trying to focus on the things that we can do better. This is a team that is never satisfied with its performance. That’s the most important thing at this level: you have to learn from your mistakes and build on them. I think this team does that extremely well. We’re going to continue to build on that in practice and hopefully that translates into this game.