Mauro Rosales has been training with the Sounders FC ever since his 30th birthday on February 24 while the team was in Bradenton, Florida.
On Saturday, with the club’s leading scorer Fredy Montero on the shelf after wrist surgery last week, he made his first start in the rave green. Although the players are still learning what to expect out of the Argentina international, he didn’t by any means look like a stranger on the field at Buck Shaw Stadium, picking up his first MLS assist in a 2-2 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes.
“It’s somebody who we’ve been playing with for the past month and a half, two months. That was some guys’ first game with him, to be honest,” said Brad Evans, the recipient of Rosales’ first assist. “Learning his tendencies and what he’s going to do is something that we need to work on. He brings a different dynamic.”
Active in the striker role, Rosales not only made runs off of forward O’Brian White and provided deep-running options for the midfield, but also created occasional chaos among the San Jose defense when the Earthquakes were in possession in their own end with his swarming play.
Much like his initial appearances as a substitute against the New York Red Bulls and Houston Dynamo, he created a sometimes panicked urgency among his opposition as they tried to get the ball past the center stripe. While he knew he wouldn’t be able to maintain the same frenetic pace that he held for 19 minutes against Houston, he certainly played to a high standard indicative of his over 240 career appearances for Newell’s Old Boys and River Plate in Argentina and Ajax in Holland, along with ten caps with Argentina.
“I thought he played very well - for 45 minutes he was very good,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “In the second 45 he ran out of gas a little bit, but he was still a very intelligent player. I tried to milk as many minutes out of him as possible because not all our guys were real sharp with their thinking.”
While he is fitting in well with his teammates, he is adjusting to the style of play in Major League Soccer. It’s not as much the pace of play as the consistency of that pace.
“In other leagues, you have the first 60 minutes and then over the last 30 minutes you can make some extra things happen,” he said, noting that he can typically outlast his mark and take advantage as they grow tired. “In this league, the 90th minute is just like when they started. I will try to keep the same level. It will be difficult, but I will try to keep playing how I’ve been playing the last two weeks.”
Although he acquitted himself well in Montero’s withdrawn forward position, Rosales is also very capable in any attacking midfield role, giving Schmid many options throughout the midfield. And with goal-scoring options all over the field, Rosales provides the perfect set-up man, relishing the assist much more than the goal itself.
For a player whose teammates have included the likes of Carlos Tevez, Wesley Sneijder, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Angelos Charisteas and Rafael van der Vaart, it is no wonder that he has developed an affinity toward setting up goal-scorers.