Jalil Anibaba might finally get chance with Sounders
The heated Sounders-Timbers rivalry could be the backdrop for Jalil Anibaba’s first start for Seattle; the newcomer has had to wait in line here after playing every minute last season with Chicago.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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TUKWILA – The reach of the Sounders-Timbers rivalry is far from limited to the Pacific Northwest, and Seattle newcomer Jalil Anibaba, acquired in an offseason trade with Chicago, was unflinching when asked if he has heard much of the heated series.
“If you haven’t,” he said, “you’re dead.”
Duties this week, particularly in context of the fiercest rivalry in MLS, are not lost on Anibaba, a defender who could play a vital role in Saturday’s game in Portland because of the red-card suspension of Djimi Traore.
Anibaba, who has been Seattle’s primary backup at center back, made his Sounders debut last week after Traore’s ejection and isn’t a player used to waiting until Week 5 to potentially get his first start. The 25-year-old was one of just three field players leaguewide to play all 3,060 minutes of the 2013 season.
So has it been difficult to wait for his turn?
“Oh, no, I don’t think so,” Anibaba said. “I’ve been training well, and I’m still confident. Guys have helped me a lot, and I’m comfortable.
“Any competitor should be ready, and I’m ready.”
Anibaba is the youngest in a Sounders center-back pool that includes Traore (34), Chad Marshall (29) and Zach Scott (33) — not counting 20-year-old rookie Damion Lowe, who is nursing a hip injury. It might seem odd, then, that coach Sigi Schmid referenced Anibaba’s experience when asked what the defender brings to the group.
“He’s had two full seasons starting in the back for Chicago, and we’re very confident in his ability,” said Schmid, who is also considering Scott in his lineup selection.
The Sounders are quite familiar with Anibaba’s ability, too, as the native of Fontana, Calif., trained with Seattle in the summer of 2010 before his senior season at North Carolina. In the subsequent MLS SuperDraft, however, he was selected No. 9 overall by the Fire, two picks before the Sounders at No. 11.
Three seasons later, Seattle got its man. And Anibaba, even while waiting for his first start, has already made an impression.
Said Traore: “It’s like he’s the future of the club.”
The Sounders have loaned David Estrada to the Atlanta Silverbacks of the second-tier North American Soccer League. The duration of the loan is indefinite, with Seattle able to recall the forward/midfielder as desired.
“We just felt he wasn’t getting games for us,” said Schmid, “and it was important for him at this stage to see what he can do as a forward down there and see if he can bang some goals in and compete and be successful at that level. It’s going to be good for him.”
Schmid said the Sounders could also pursue loans later this season for younger players like draft pick Fabio Pereira and homegrowns Sean Okoli and Aaron Kovar.
• Midfielder Brad Evans looks likely to miss his third straight MLS game with a calf injury. Schmid said the team is taking it slowly with the recovery to ensure the issue doesn’t linger and called Evans’ chances of playing at Portland “very small.”
• Schmid said Clint Dempsey is expected to play against the Timbers after playing a full 90 minutes Wednesday against Mexico, but the coach didn’t specify whether that would be as a starter or off the bench.
• The Timbers got good news Thursday as MLS announced an independent review panel has rescinded the red card issued to Michael Harrington last week, making the defender eligible to face Seattle.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @joshuamayers