Over the past two seasons before coming to Seattle, Jalil Anibaba had missed just one match with the Chicago Fire. So when Sigi Schmid is faced with the prospect of having Djimi Traore unavailable for Saturday’s match against the Portland Timbers at Providence Park, the Sounders FC Head Coach is far from concerned about the player at the front of the line to take his place.
“Jalil is an experienced player in this league. He’s had two full seasons starting in the back for Chicago as a center back and as an outside back. We’re very confident with his ability to play there,” Schmid said. “We’ve got Zach Scott as well, who is another alternative who has played a number of games for us back there as well. So we’re very confident with either option.”
The move will break up Seattle’s back four for the first time this season, as DeAndre Yedlin, Chad Marshall, Traore and Dylan Remick started each of the first four matches this season. In those matches, Seattle has notched two shutouts and given up two goals in each of the other two contests.
Anibaba offers a different type of skillset from Traore, providing speed and athleticism to contrast the guile of the veteran Traore. He also spent plenty of time training with Marshall in preseason while Traore nursed some niggling injuries. There, he showed the capability to play the position and partner well with Marshall and that form has continued in training during the season as he continues to learn from Marshall, Traore and Scott.
“Preseason went well. I’ve been training well. I’m still confident and I’m comfortable,” Anibaba said. “I’ve got a lot to learn from them on a daily basis on and off the field.”
That Anibaba’s first start for Seattle would come against the club’s biggest rival in the Timbers will only further his focus on preparing for the match on Saturday. It helps that one of his four career MLS goals came against the Timbers.
“Any competitor should be ready,” Anibaba said. “I’m ready and I’m confident and the guys are ready and that’s what’s important.”
Anibaba, 24, has four goals and five assists in 97 career appearances. He came to Seattle in a trade that sent Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Patrick Ianni to the Fire. The clubs also swapped first round picks in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft, with Seattle moving from 13 to eight and Chicago also sending a conditional pick in the 2015 draft.