Coach Sigi Schmid wouldn’t say whether Fisher’s performance Sunday against Orlando City will affect the depth chart once the defense is healthy again, but it certainly didn’t hurt his cause.
Cristian Roldan’s first impression of his future Sounders teammate, Oniel Fisher, was both painful and prescient.
The 2013 College Cup quarterfinal matchup between Washington and New Mexico remains a bit of locker-room trash talk to this day, as Fisher’s Lobos stunned Roldan, Darwin Jones and the heavily favored Huskies 1-0 to advance to the Final Four.
Fisher, who provided the assist on the game’s only goal, can’t help a widening smile when asked if he still rubs it in.
“I do sometimes,” Fisher said. “(Roldan) is always like, ‘You killed my dream. Why’d you have to do that?’ But that’s just soccer, you know?”
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Though Roldan still winces slightly at the memory, it does not cloud another key takeaway from that NCAA tournament upset: Fisher can play — and, perhaps even more important, he can fill a variety of roles.
Nominally a right back, the Jamaican came on as a first-half substitute in the Lobos midfield. Though he’s spent much of his rookie season backing up Tyrone Mears on the right, Fisher started and played all 90 minutes of Seattle’s 4-0 victory over Orlando City on Sunday afternoon.
“I think the world of him,” Roldan said. “He’s going to be one of those franchise players, I think. … For every rookie you have on the field, you want them to be versatile. And Fisher is that.”
Fisher’s speed helped him stick with the team through training camp, when a steady stream of unsigned rookies and trialists all duke it out for a few roster spots.
He added an immediate spark to the Seattle midfield when he entered as a second-half substitute against Los Angeles. His orders were clear: Run. Take advantage of those tired L.A. legs, get behind the defense and stretch the field.
If Fisher’s role felt familiar, it’s similar to the one former Sounder DeAndre Yedlin often fills with the U.S. national team. Seattle center back Chad Marshall, who has played with both players, didn’t blanch at the comparison, nodding his head thoughtfully after a beat.
“The speed is comparable, for sure,” Marshall said. “They both like to get up and down. I can get that comparison. I think Fisher has come a long way this season and really gotten better.”
Yet if Fisher’s speed helped earn his initial contract, his versatility is what has helped him break into the rotation.
“In preseason, I remember saying to Chris Henderson and Garth Lagerwey, ‘This guy is going to help us,’ ” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. ‘As the season goes on, there will be a time when he is going to be able to help us.’”
It wasn’t always clear when, if ever, that time would arrive. In contrast to the rotating door farther up the field, minutes haven’t come easy on the Sounders’ back line this season.
Fisher is one of S2’s early success stories, a rookie who otherwise would have had to make do with spottily scheduled reserve-league games instead of keeping sharp in the USL.
“For game time and stuff like that, it did help a lot,” Fisher said. “The pace of S2 and the pace of the first team is different, but I had to adjust. … It kind of prepared me for both, when to up the tempo a bit and when to slow it down. It surely helped.”
With regular starting left back Dylan Remick and backup Leo Gonzalez both limited by recent injuries, Fisher’s chance arrived. It was out of position, sure, but he just shrugs — he can use both feet.
Schmid wouldn’t say whether Fisher’s performance against Orlando City will affect the depth chart once the defense is healthy again, but it certainly didn’t hurt his cause.
“What I like about Oniel is that he’s not in awe of the situation,” Schmid said after the game Sunday. “He’s going to come in and battle.”