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Obed Vargas willing to bide time after disappointing end to 2023

Vargas now finds himself fighting for playing time with two good friends.

Last Updated
2 min read

RENTON – It’s sometimes easy to forget that Obed Vargas is still just 18 years old. The Seattle Sounders midfielder is entering his fourth professional season, having experienced some significant highs as well as some frustrating lows.

After a promising campaign as a 15-year-old in which he logged nearly 2,000 minutes in the USL-Championship and made his MLS debut, Vargas burst onto the scene in 2022 when he started the season-opener and then played a significant role on the way to helping the Sounders win Concacaf Champions League. He seemed poised to ride that momentum into an international career with both the United States and Mexico national team programs showing interest in him.

But instead of taking off, Vargas suffered a massive setback when it was discovered that he had fractured a bone in his back and had to sit out more than half of the season. Although he recovered in time for the 2023 campaign and was the youngest player to make the USA’s Olympic qualifying roster, he came in and out of the Sounders lineup. He made just one start in the Sounders’ final nine matches, and logged just 24 minutes in four playoff games.

Heading into 2024, Vargas’ fight for playing time appears to be even tougher with Josh Atencio now seemingly established as a starter and Danny Leyva looking like one of the most improved players in preseason.

Vargas seems to be relishing the challenge.

"You obviously want to play every game, but there are good players on the team," he said following Thursday's training session. "I know who I'm up against, I know my competition, that’s a good thing because it’s only making me better.

"It’s not going to be forever. Everything comes to an end so whenever my opportunity comes I have to be ready. It’s also a learning experience for me, I want to play wherever I go but there have been teams where I haven’t played so I think mentally I’m prepared. I’m just going to keep working and prepare myself for my opportunity."

That Vargas considers fellow Academy graduates Atencio and Leyva to be good friends only adds an interesting twist to the competition.

"I’m super close with them," he said. "We all have similar stories, especially with Danny coming from Vegas. We have a lot of similar experiences. My parents and Josh's parents are super close. That’s a brotherhood right there and we try to support each other in any way we can, even if we’re fighting for the same spot."

The trio often watches film together and freely offer feedback to one another. Rather than viewing it as a zero-sum game for playing time, Vargas takes the attitude that they can all push each other to improve.

"We try to help each other," he said. "If we see something they can do better, we let each other know. Whoever is playing we want them to do their best, it will only make us better."

Other notes

  • All the non-first-team outfield players who traveled with the team to Marbella, Spain continue to train with the first team. That list includes draft picks Kalani Kossa-Rienzi and Antino Lopez; Defiance players Georgi Minoungou and Snyder Brunell; and Academy centerback Gallatin Sandnes. Academy player Mo Shour has been in and out of the first-team sessions, joining when they need a fourth goalkeeper.