Seattle’s second-highest-paid player was again relegated to the bench for Saturday’s 2-0 home loss to New York City FC, coming on only as a second-half substitute.

Share story

Sounders forward Nelson Valdez isn’t injured, at least according to coach Sigi Schmid, having fully recovered from the nagging calf problem he’d struggled with earlier this season.

The 32-year-old played in only one of Paraguay’s Copa America Centenario matches, so he should be relatively well rested, too — though Schmid did say afterward that fitness is part of the issue.

Whatever the explanation, Seattle’s second-highest-paid player was again relegated to the bench for Saturday’s 2-0 home loss to New York City FC, coming on only as a second-half substitute.

“He’s still working his way in terms of fitness,” Schmid said afterward. “They really didn’t train much with Paraguay. We wanted to keep (Jordan) Morris inside. I don’t think playing wide for him is the best, so when we put him in, we put him inside.”

Valdez hasn’t started a match since April 2, and if he wasn’t able to crack the starting 11 under these circumstances, it’s unclear whether he’ll ever break back in.

Clint Dempsey is still away on national-team duty, and the summer reinforcements the front office has promised haven’t yet arrived. Competition for spots isn’t going to get much more tepid than it is right now.

If Valdez can’t play out wide, that leaves only a single potential forward role in Seattle’s 4-3-3 formation. Even if he’s more comfortable in the middle, the preferred option right now on the left is Joevin Jones, who the team considered more of a defender when they traded for him this January.

Valdez replaced Dylan Remick in the 57th minute and pushed Jones back into defense. Valdez threw himself at crosses and hustled back to help out in defense. He stuck a leg out and redirected Andreas Ivanschitz’s free kick into the side netting — close, but again not quite enough.

He cut a figure of despair, wrenching his head back after misses, driving frustrated fists into the turf.

Valdez has a proven international pedigree and is a tirelessly hard worker. In another universe less beset by leg injuries, maybe he’d have made a better fit. He has tallied just two goals and one assist since signing from Germany’s Eintracht Frankfurt last summer, though, none of which happened this season.

His contract lasts only through the end of this season, and at this rate he might not be wearing rave green for even that long.