Player Features

"He’s got a super high ceiling": Obed Vargas enjoying breakout performances in recent matches


It’s been almost three years since Obed Vargas famously made his Seattle Sounders debut in a 1-0 win at Austin FC, so it’s easy to forget that he’s still only 18 years old. Now in his fourth season with the club, he is blossoming into the type of player that had the Sounders coaching staff brimming with excitement.

Vargas has already logged over 3,000 MLS minutes, and perhaps his best accomplishment came when he was just 16 and replaced an injured João Paulo in the second leg of the 2022 Concacaf Champions League Final. The Anchorage, Alaska, native also has plenty of youth international experience, most notably being one of the youngest players to represent the United States U-20s at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Argentina last year.

“Obed is a competitive guy and didn’t like it last year when I picked Josh [Atencio] in front of him,” said Head Coach Brian Schmetzer. “You’re seeing some of that determination, some of that mindset, that I like. He’s going to do whatever it takes to make sure that he makes that job his own.”

Vargas scored his first professional goal in the Sounders’ win at the Philadelphia Union on April 30, confidently taking on a defender before rifling a shot to the far post. It helps, too, that he gets firsthand experience in training every day from one of the league’s best defensive midfielders in veteran João Paulo, as well as a player in Cristian Roldan, who Schmetzer feels most closely matches Vargas’ profile.

That was on full display in the Sounders’ draw with the LA Galaxy last weekend, as Vargas started in Roldan’s normal position at right wing, while Roldan filled in at right fullback for his suspended brother Alex.

“[Schmetzer] asked me to be in the pocket, to be disciplined, help Raúl [Ruidíaz], help the pivots when I could and just do what I know what to do,” said Vargas. “There wasn’t too much time to train in that position because of the quick turnaround from the Philly game, so he just trusted me to know what do in that position.”

Vargas followed up his head-turning display against the Galaxy with a composed, gritty performance in Seattle’s 2-1 rivalry win over the Portland Timbers on Sunday. The Alaska native repeatedly spurred the Rave Green forward as he combined with teammates and dribbled past defenders. He even notched an assist on Raúl Ruidíaz’s game-winning goal.

“[He’s] a kid on the rise,” Schmetzer said following the Portland match. “The kid’s got a super high ceiling. I don’t know where he’s going to end up, but he’s got a super high ceiling.” 

Despite his relatively lean frame that he’s still growing into, Vargas has played well beyond his years. His pass completion percentage is in the 73rd percentile among MLS midfielders, and his tackles per 90 minutes is in the 80th percentile. He’s doing it in both facets of the game, which bodes well for his future with both the Sounders and the senior U.S. national team.

“I think we’ve all been noticing Obed for the last four, five games,” said Schmetzer. “The kid is super talented. He’s on a high note. The kid’s ceiling is still higher, he can give us more, but the kid is playing at a really high level.”

The Sounders return to action on Wednesday as they visit Western Conference-leading Real Salt Lake (6:30 p.m. PT; Watch on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV) before heading home for another Cascadia clash against the Vancouver Whitecaps in next Saturday’s Heritage Match (TICKETS).



Grab your tickets and celebrate our 50th Anniversary Season!



Pick your matches and unlock exclusive benefits such as merchandise, on-field experiences, Suite upgrades, and more!