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Obed Vargas completes ‘long journey’ back from injury

The 17-year-old played about 30 minutes against LAFC and now will join the USA’s U20 team.

Mike Fiechtner / Sounders FC Communications

SEATTLE — It took about a month longer than hoped, but Obed Vargas finally made his long-awaited return from a back injury that cost him the last half of 2022. Vargas, who was on pace to return for the start of the season until a quadriceps injury set him back, came off the bench to play about 30 minutes in Saturday’s 0-0 draw with LAFC.

Vargas looked very much like his old self. He completed 11 of 13 passes, blocked a pass, made an interception and won 3 of 5 duels.

“Obviously, I was very nervous warming up,” Vargas told reporters, noting that his last appearance also came against LAFC. “It’s been a long, long journey ever since I played my last game. I was just very happy and obviously very nervous, too.”

“Once I get on the pitch and make my first pass, it was all back to normal.”

The 17-year-old was actually medically cleared to return to training a few weeks ago, but was eased back in order to regain fitness. He had played in Tacoma Defiance preseason games each of the previous two weekends.

Just as soon as he returned, though, Vargas was getting ready to board a plane to join the United States U20 national team in Marbella, Spain, where they are preparing to play matches against France, England, and Croatia. It’s their final training camp before the U20 World Cup in Indonesia that runs May 20 through June 11. Vargas, who will still be eligible for the 2025 U20 World Cup, is the youngest player at camp.

Vargas’ inclusion is almost as much about sending him a message of support as it is about his ability to contribute.

“Obed is a player we believe in long term,” U20 coach Mikey Varas told AmericanSoccerNow.com. “I think that’s the most important message here.

“He’s coming back from an injury and these kinds of experiences often give the players confidence to go back into their clubs. We hope that he is at a level that he was at before. At the end of the day, the midfield is a really competitive group to make. There’s no guarantees for Obed. But long term? We see him as a long term projection for our senior team. We want to make sure we take care of him.”

The gesture is not lost on Vargas, who is also eligible to represent Mexico.

“Right now, it’s the team that gave me the opportunity,” he said. “I’m going with the team that gave me the opportunity, which is the US.”

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