The image of Obed Vargas watching Seattle Sounders training from the sidelines has become a regular image over the past couple of months. But with just six games remaining in the MLS regular season, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to imagine a scenario where the midfielder actually suits up in 2022.
Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer confirmed as much on Saturday.
“It looks very likely that he’s not going to come back this year,” Schmetzer said ahead of Sunday’s match against the Houston Dynamo. “Even if he did come back here in the next couple of weeks, he still needs some time to ramp up. I’d need to clarify that with the training staff, but it’s looking likely he won’t come back.”
Vargas last played on June 18, a home match against LAFC, and was removed after 74 minutes after feeling some discomfort in his back. It was later revealed that he suffered a stress fracture in his lower back. The recovery timeline on that sort of injury is often hard to assess — sometimes taking as few as four weeks but potentially much longer — as the only real remedy is rest. The Sounders have said all along that they’d err on the side of caution, especially given that Vargas just turned 17 in August. That Vargas hasn’t even resumed training almost three months after the injury, makes it hard to imagine the Sounders pushing him back onto the field within a month.
Vargas’ absence has certainly been felt, though. Since starting the Concacaf Champions League opener on the road against Motagua, Vargas had logged nearly 1,300 minutes and the Sounders went 8-4-3 across all competitions in matches he played at least a half. They’ve gone 4-9-1 since his injury and have struggled to find a regular central midfield partner for Albert Rusnák.
As much as the Sounders may miss him in the short term, they’re surely more concerned about his longterm health. Vargas, who was slated to be one of the youngest players on the United States U20 qualifying team prior to his injury, is generally considered one of the top talents to ever come through the Sounders Academy. Transfermarkt recently updated its valuation of him to $2.2 million, an increase of about $1.65 million from his previous valuation. Only 13 players in MLS saw a bigger jump this year, and none of those players are younger than Vargas.
The news was a bit better for Cristian Roldan’s return following groin surgery. Roldan has missed the Sounders’ last three games, but remain on track to return before the end of the season.
“He’s doing fine,” Schmetzer said. “His recovery is doing good.”