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Sounders rookie faces off against mentor, holds his own

Tony Alfaro comes pretty close to a dream debut.

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at New England Revolution Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Tony Alfaro surely did not expect to get his professional debut the way he did on Saturday. In the 37th minute, Brad Evans was struck in the head by a close-range shot by Kai Kamara. Suddenly, Alfaro was warming up and just a few minutes later was in the game.

Despite having virtually no time to get ready, Alfaro acquitted himself well. The 22-year-old matched up with veteran forward Kei Kamara for most of the game and never looked remotely out of place. Alfaro was sound positionally, showed some good dribbling in tight areas and even displayed some slick passing out of the back.

If there was one play Alfaro might want back, it was the back-post header he had in the 90th minute. Aaron Kovar's corner cleared the defense and found Alfaro, who almost looked surprised as his shot sailed high over the crossbar.

"You can obviously see that he is very comfortable with the ball and he is a good passer," Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said. "I thought overall his defending was good."

That Alfaro's debut came against Kamara was almost poetic. Kamara is the most successful player to come out of Cal State Dominguez Hills -- the same Division II school where Alfaro went.

"It’s an honor, getting to play against one of the best guys in the league," Alfaro said. "It’s definitely a test for me. Like I said, he’s one of the best and as a young guy you know you look up to this. You remember these moments forever and you just got to live the moment."

Kamara even made a point of exchanging shirts with Alfaro, which was the second personal encounter they'd shared recently.

"To be honest, he came up to me," Alfaro said. "Kei, I’ve known him for a while now. Yesterday, he and I were getting some ice cream so he kind of mentioned it to me yesterday, ‘You know if anything happens, we’re exchanging jerseys.’ So I’m glad it was that way."

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