Servando Carrasco’s position is not one that often takes on heaps of praise, nor the crushing weight of criticism. As a defensive midfielder, his performance isn’t measured in goals scored like a striker, nor goals prevented like a defender or goalkeeper.
However, when he scored on a penalty to equalize the match against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC in a 3-2 Sounders victory that lifted Seattle to fourth in the Western Conference, his reserved celebration spoke volumes as the quiet warrior was thrust into the spotlight.
Carrasco may not get the accolades of the players in front of him on the depth chart, but not many would in filling in for two of the best players to ever play the position in MLS in Osvaldo Alonso and Shalrie Joseph. However, like the typical men of his position his contributions have been subtle – and have given Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid the confidence to keep him on the field for Seattle as Carrasco has started in each of the last seven matches, helping the Sounders to a 5-1-1 record in that stretch.
“I think different people have stepped up on different days and different occasions. Obviously Servando’s had to step in and play a lot of games at midfield with Ozzie out and Shalrie out,” Schmid said. “They know when their opportunity comes and they want to take hold of it. The thing is, the guys have confidence in each other and have in confidence in the guy playing next to them.”
With Carrasco comes a certain level of toughness. He had the same tenacity as a rookie, but lacked the polish to know when and how to make certain plays in a league that was faster-paced than the collegiate game he played at Cal.
In an up-and-down 2012 season, he never lost that resolve as he developed as a player. That character element is one of the reasons he was called upon to take the equalizing penalty against Vancouver with over 53,000 fans in attendance at CenturyLink Field.
It’s also a resolve that he’s had to show throughout his life. It’s what got him through school while commuting from Tijuana, Mexico, to San Diego, California, each day. And it was strengthened further when his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer while he was in college. She defeated the disease and was ruled cancer-free last year in her five-year checkup and often comes to Seattle to watch her son play for the Sounders.
“He’s a pretty tough character. Anybody who knows the Servando story knows how he grew up … he’s a tough character,” Schmid said. “There’s not a lot that’s going to unnerve him.”
To Carrasco, the goal wasn’t a revelation, though it was his first in MLS. He took a simple approach to the critical attempt.
“I just knew that I had to score. My teammates and coaching staff gave me the confidence to take the kick and I knew that I had to step up and score,” he said. “It was an important time in the game and there was only one thought on mind—put it in the back of the net.”
For a player whose nature is to be out of the spotlight, few can argue that he didn’t handle that moment – or many others in the last seven matches – admirably.