Panamanian Chen already well known to Sounders brass

The right back has been in the Sounders sights for some time and will now get to play at CenturyLink Field with his national team at the Gold Cup.

Panama vs. Martinique and Canada vs. Mexico
2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup
5:30 and 8 pm PT, Thursday, July 11, 2013; CenturyLink Field

This week, the Sounders FC technical staff had a rare opportunity when eight international teams visited the Pacific Northwest for the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

For a staff that often splinters out to different parts of the world to scout talent, having Gold Cup matches in Portland on Tuesday and Seattle on Thursday provides them the chance to scout eight different teams in four matches.

“I think it helps us for sure in our scouting. For us, we love having as many games up here as possible and it’s really easy to go see the games,” Sounders FC sporting director Chris Henderson said. “This week in Portland and Seattle we can see four games and back-to-back games and it’s a lot of players that we can see pretty easily.”

On Tuesday after the club’s training session at Starfire Sports, Henderson, head coach Sigi Schmid and owner and general manager Adrian Hanauer went to Portland. There they saw Costa Rica trounce Cuba 3-0 and the U.S. batter Belize 6-1. After training on Thursday, they will head to their home stadium at CenturyLink Field to watch Panama meet Martinique and the headlining match between Canada and Mexico.

While the opportunity to scout players in an international tournament like the Gold Cup is a valuable chance for the Seattle staff, perhaps even more valuable is that they can watch the matches together as a group.

“I always love when coaches can scout because you can get a different perspective,” Henderson said. “Seeing a player with more than one set of eyes always helps. You can bounce things off each other and get different opinions. I think we’ve made a lot of decisions as a committee and it helps us make better decisions.”

Seattle got a first-hand look at one player who will likely feature for Panama on Thursday when defender Roberto Chen joined Sounders FC for training in recent weeks.

At just 19 years old, Chen is already a player very familiar to the Seattle staff. In 2011 when Sounders FC met San Francisco of Panama in the preliminary round of CONCACAF Champions League and they were impressed with what they saw out of him, even at just 17 years old at the time.

An ACL injury slowed his progress shortly after that tournament, but Schmid and the Sounders have been impressed with his recovery.

“We’ve had an eye on him. We liked him at that age,” Schmid said. “We like the way he recovered and brought him up to have a look at him. It’s been good for us to get a look at him and to get to know him as a person.”

Chen and Panama will face Martinique at 5:30 pm PT at CenturyLink Field on Thursday. A center back who can also play right back, Chen is the youngest player on Panama’s Gold Cup squad and has three caps to his credit after he started at right back in a 2-1 win over Mexico on Sunday.

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