TUKWILA, Wash. — The crowd of more than 53,000 seemed to hold its collective breath. The Emerald City Supporters, who normally take great pride in never ceasing to sing, even took a break. For just a brief moment, CenturyLink Field was almost silent.
All eyes were focused on the penalty spot, where Servando Carrasco was lining up what had the potential to be the equalizing goal.
Showing the confidence of someone who had done this many times before, the Seattle Sounders midfielder dropped his head, took took quick steps, then two bigger ones and struck the ball with his right foot. The ball rocketed past Vancouver Whitecaps goalkeeper Brad Knighton and into the back of the net.
Tie game. Silence broken.
“It just felt like I was doing my job,” Carrasco told MLSsoccer.com. “They gave me the responsibility to take the PKs and and I didn’t think it was anything special.”
Following that ethos, Carrasco barely celebrated his first career goal. He simply turned, walked away and gave a brief hug to the first player he saw.
“We’re going to win this game and I’m not going to waste time celebrating,” Carrasco said he thought to himself. “Let’s go back and get another goal.”
Of course, that’s just what the Sounders did, beating the Whitecaps 3-2 Saturday and sending them into their two week break among the hottest teams in the league.
Carrasco is a major reason why.
“He’s done what he’s been asked to do and he’s been very steady about it,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said. “A lot of people think that experience is that all of a sudden players do more. I don’t think players do more when they are experienced players, they do what they do consistently and you can start to bank on it.
“That’s what the experienced player is. You know when you put a player on the field this is what you’re going to get and it’s not going to deviate too much from it. I think his performances have been very consistent and that’s a reflection of the experience he’s gained in three years.”
That’s not to suggest Carrasco’s rise has been steady.
After breaking into MLS by playing in 12 matches and making seven starts as a rookie, Carrasco found himself at the end of the bench during his sophomore season. Fellow midfielders like Andy Rose and Alex Caskey had passed him on the depth chart, limiting him to just 235 minutes of mostly clean-up work late in matches.
This season started out much the same way, with Carrasco sitting out five of the Sounders’ first six games and logging just six minutes.
Carrasco finally got his break when Osvaldo Alonso missed the game against the Philadelphia Union in order to be with his wife during the birth of their daughter. Carrasco hasn’t looked back since, starting seven straight games and playing 90 minutes in all but one.
The successful penalty seems to be the culmination of his climb.
“Servando’s confidence has just grown so much in the last couple of weeks,” Sounders midfielder Shalrie Joseph said. “You can tell he’s on the ultimate high right now. He’s one of the best midfielders in this league right now. If he keeps going he will definitely be there. He just has to keep pushing himself. The sky is the limit. You can’t ask for a better midfielder to play alongside and watch grow.”