Back injury sidelines Obed Vargas ‘for weeks’

Tukwila — Seattle Sounders coach Brian Schmitzer said Thursday that Obed Vargas will be out “several weeks” — and possibly a little longer — after scans revealed he had a stress fracture in his lower back.

“It’s not a big injury,” Schmitzer told reporters. “He’ll be out for several weeks, and he’ll see a back specialist every two weeks, but that’s going to take time to heal.”

It usually takes at least 4-8 weeks for a player to return to “sports activities” after suffering a stress fracture in their back. Vargas will likely need some extra time to get back in shape as well.

Schmitzer said Vargas started experiencing some discomfort in his back two months ago, but it simply improved with rest. After the LAFC game, Vargas was in enough pain that the team felt it necessary to perform some formal testing, which revealed the extent of the injury.

Unlike most injuries where there is an obvious cause and healing process, stress fractures are cumulative and take time to heal through rest. Vargas, who is still 16, has already scored nearly 1,300 minutes in all competitions, the ninth most on the team. He was due to join the US Under-20 team after the Sporting KC game on Saturday.

“I asked our guys to give us ideas on how to prevent something like this from happening again,” Schmitzer said. “He’s a little kid, a lot of pressure on his body, a lot of toys. It happens.

“Mentally, he is frustrated, of course, he wants to play. But he will have a long career.”

In the meantime, the Sounders’ depth in midfield will be tested more than it already was. Vargas became a Sounders player in part due to Joao Paulo’s injury. Schmitzer said Josh Atencio, Dani Leiva and Klein Roe will likely get opportunities to replace Vargas. It’s also possible that Christian Roldan will back out of a streak.

It looks like Rowe will get his first chance to play because he was the most used in that group, with nearly 1,200 minutes in all competitions this year, but he’s also been Schmetzer’s favorite substitute in several positions.

Leyva has only played about 100 minutes with the Sounders this year, but recently scored his first MLS assist and has another 620 minutes with Tacoma Defiance in the MLS Next Pro.

Atencio, who had a promising start in 2021, has been struggling with injuries for most of this season. He hasn’t played for the Sounders since May 22, but scored 45 minutes at Defiance on Saturday.

“It’s tough, but the fact of the matter is we have a deep team,” Schmitzer said. “[Vargas] Covered for JP and we have back Josh, Danny, Kelyn can acclimatize there, so the team will be fine. It is a problem for the child. He looked fine.”

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