With stars such as Obafemi Martins, Nelson Valdez and Roman Torres all appearing in the Seattle Sounders’ first 11 on Sunday, it was easy to overlook the rookie penciled in at left back.
There, Oniel Fisher slipped in at a spot primarily manned earlier this season by veterans Leo Gonzalez and Dylan Remick. Gonzalez was unavailable Sunday because of a hamstring strain, and Remick wasn’t 100 percent either. Coach Sigi Schmid had been talking up the progress Fisher has been making, and he backed that up with the starting assignment in what proved to be a 4-0 win over Orlando City SC.
“We like him,” Schmid said. “That’s the reason we drafted him. In preseason I remember saying to (sporting director) Chris Henderson and (general manager) Garth Lagerwey that this guy is going to help us — as the season goes on, there will be a time he is going to be able to help us.”
That time didn’t come immediately. Fisher, the 40th overall selection of the 2015 SuperDraft, got most of his early minutes with the S2 developmental team. Over the first 16 games of the MLS season, he played four minutes. In June, he got back-to-back starts against Philadelphia and Portland. And this month he got 30 minutes at Los Angeles before his third career start Sunday.
“I didn’t mind that I had to go into training every day and just work hard,” Fisher said. “Put it in their minds that, ‘Yeah, he’d probably be ready now to get out there and play some minutes and help the team as much as he can.’ That’s what I put in my mind, and that’s what I surely put in the coaches’ mind, that ‘Yeah, he’s ready to go, so we’re going to test him and see what he has.’”
Fisher has speed and ball skills from his time in midfield at the University of New Mexico. He’s naturally right-footed but comfortable enough with either foot to play right or left back. And there’s more.
“What I like about Oniel is that he’s not in awe of the situation,” Schmid said. “He’s going to come in and battle.”
Even once Remick and Gonzalez return to full health, Fisher hopes he will continue to gain game experience over the final nine matches of the MLS season and the final three group-stage games in the CONACACAF Champions League.
“There’s always stuff that I can improve on, and I look forward to improving,” he said. “… Getting the minutes will also help with that — the experience — knowing when to do stuff, when not to do stuff. Getting those minutes would be very important for me.”
Newly signed midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz (groin) trained Monday and could be on pace to make his Sounders debut Wednesday when Olimpia of Honduras visits CenturyLink Field for a Champions League match. … Schmid said Clint Dempsey (hamstring), Osvaldo Alonso (hamstring) and Gonzalez also are doing more in training, but he gave no indication of when they might be ready to return.