Servando Carrasco knew he would have to adapt quickly if he was going to survive in Major League Soccer.
That point was never clearer to the Sounders rookie from Cal than in the team’s second game of the season – a road match against the New York Red Bulls.
Starting in Seattle’s midfield, Carrasco squared off against the likes of Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez, two of the most world-class players in Major League Soccer. He wouldn’t want his MLS debut any other way.
“It was exciting. It was a thrill. It was a lot of pressure, but that comes with the job. That was the first test. It was a great experience to build off of. You have to earn the right to play. Nothing’s going to be handed to you in this league … or in life, really,” Carrasco said. “You have to put out a good performance, not for yourself, but for the team.”
That mentality earned Carrasco seven starts in the 2011 season and 689 minutes in 12 appearances, playing in a deep midfield that featured eight players that played over 450 minutes this season and five over 1,500.
It was an incredible jump from the college game to the professional level, but one Carrasco took on like he does a rugged tackle in the midfield – without any hesitation.
“The most important thing was to adapt quickly. I knew if I didn’t, I’d get left behind. Everyone here is a lot faster with the ball. A lot stronger with the ball. Your decision-making has to be so much quicker to compete with these guys,” he said. “As the year went on, that got better. Every single game that I played, the mental side slowed down for me.”
In addition to his time in MLS play, Carrasco also saw plenty of the field in other competitions as well. He played 384 minutes in Seattle’s run to reach the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals. In addition, he notched 398 minutes in five MLS Reserve League matches.
With so much time in meaningful games, his experience was likely much different than most MLS rookies would see in 2011.
Even still though, he goes into the off-season with much more to strive for as he prepares for his second season.
“Overall, the season went alright, but I’m not satisfied. That’s what we demand from each other and that’s what I demand from myself. My goal for next season is to be quicker, faster and stronger. Physically and mentally,” he said. “I can’t just expect to be better because it’s my second season. It’s not an off-season. It’s a time to catch up to where we want to be – to be the last team standing. We need to put in the work necessary to be there.”
Carrasco will go back to Berkeley and finish his degree in International Economics and Globalization at Cal, then to his family home in San Diego where he will begin work on his game with other local MLS players.
While most of them will start their off-season without a specific target date for the start of the 2012 season, Carrasco is gearing toward March 6, when the Sounders will potentially open the campaign with the first leg of their quarterfinal Champions League match with Santos Laguna at CenturyLink Field.
It will be a Sounders side with their sights set on many prizes, but the MLS Cup will undoubtedly again be their primary target.
“Of course we achieved certain things throughout the season – the CONCACAF qualifying and the third straight Open Cup. But to say that the MLS Cup wasn’t our main goal would be a lie,” he said. “At the same time, we can use that experience for next year. Every single player left their heart on the field and that’s all you can ask for. We have a good foundation and to build off that last game is where we need to start at the beginning of next season.”