But he has now, due to a hamstring injury that led Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer to keep presumptive starter Oniel Fisher on the bench and give Delem the nod at right back that night. A 24-year-old who has five goals and 32 caps for the Martinique national team, Delem deputized admirably, helping the Sounders keep the potent Atlanta attack at bay and preserve the scoreless draw.
“You saw what he brings,” Schmetzer said of Delem’s performance after the game. “He brings a little tenacity. He jumps well, he won some headers. So overall, pretty good.”
Delem’s effort after being thrust into duty on Friday was especially notable given that right back isn’t even his natural position.
He signed with the Sounders’ first team during the preseason after making 19 appearances for Seattle’s USL affiliate S2 last year. They billed him as a defensive midfielder with a skill set in a similar vein as franchise linchpin Osvaldo Alonso.
But versatility aside, Schmetzer says, what has impressed him most about Delem is his temperament. His even-keeled nature meant the Seattle coach could trust him to face an expansion side with one of the most explosive attacks so far this season.
“What I like about Jordy is that he’s been pretty steady. Even his time at S2, if you watch some of his games, there were not a whole lot of ups and downs," Schmetzer said. "You like that steadier guy. That’s number one. Number two, like I said, he’s physically pretty good."
Delem’s showing on Friday formed part of an overall strong defensive effort from the Sounders’ makeshift back line, which also missed starting center backs Chad Marshall (illness) and Roman Torres (rest).
With Delem’s first-team debut now behind him, Schmetzer said there are still a few things he’d like to see the young midfielder/defender work on.
“If I had to say what he needs to improve on, in our system the right backs have to get forward,” Schmetzer said. “A couple times he got caught out there on the right. Did he run out of ideas? Did he cross the ball to the right spot? Those are some of the things we’ll work on with him.
“But overall, his commitment, effort, all 100 percent. And he wants to be here, which is another big reason I like him.”