Consistently this season, the idea of history repeating itself has been broached when the Sounders FC is the topic of conversation.
In both of his previous two Major League Soccer stops, head coach Sigi Schmid has led his squad to MLS Cup titles. The same could happen in Seattle, where the Sounders are in second in MLS at 13-5-9 after going 7-0-1 in all competitions in the month of August. The incredible month also gave the Sounders a stronghold on their group in the CONCACAF Champions League and put them in their third straight Lamar Hunt US Open Cup final.
To help the Sounders FC reach that point, they brought in midfielder Mauro Rosales late in the preseason, causing history to repeat itself in another way for Schmid.
By mere description, Rosales is very much like one of Schmid’s previous maestros, Guillermo Barros Schelotto.
Both were highly successful Argentine playmakers who came to Major League Soccer and took the league by storm.
In 2007, Schelotto joined the Columbus Crew and proved to be a highly influential piece on the Crew team that went on to win MLS Cup and the Supporters’ Shield in 2008.
In his first season with the Crew, Schelotto had 5 goals and 11 assists in 22 matches, 19 of them starts. In 22 matches this year, 19 of them starts, Rosales has 5 goals and 9 assists for the Sounders FC.
Although they do it from different positions – Schelotto as a withdrawn striker and Rosales as a right wing – both players became the focal point of their team’s offensive attack.
“I don’t think he’s found a left back that he can’t tear apart yet. For us, he’s been the catalyst in this recent run,” midfielder Brad Evans said. “He’s provided that spark, just like Guille did, but in a different way. They are different players, but they have the same mentality and it’s been the same result.”
It’s no mere hyperbole either. In matches that Rosales has started, the Sounders are 11-2-6.
The spark on the field has also extended to his teammates. A tenacious worker in matches, Rosales has mastered the craft of rationing his energy to maximize his usefulness on gameday. Sometimes that may mean a lighter approach to a training session, but there is a huge payoff on the pitch when the lights are on. Schelotto, according to former teammates, was very much the same.
“They are both great leaders and they’re both great players. Mauro has really lifted the team on and off the field,” said Sounders FC assistant coach Ezra Hendrickson, who played with Schelotto on the Crew. “He would find a way to contribute and that’s now what Mauro is doing for us.”
Echoed Evans, “He’s a silent guy in trainings. You don’t see that same fire that he brings to the game. Maybe it’s the Argentine way. He can do that, he can be lax during the week and flip the switch for the games. It’s a gift and we’re lucky to have him.”
In Seattle, Rosales has forcefully declared himself a candidate for the MVP title, and a frontrunner for the Newcomer of the Year award.
In the latter award, he is likely to see competition from Philadelphia goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon, DC United forward Charlie Davies and from Vancouver, forward Eric Hassli and Camilo and midfielder Davide Chiumiento.
Although he is also getting stiff competition in the MVP race from likes of FC Dallas midfielder Brek Shea, the LA Galaxy tandem of Landon Donovan and David Beckham, Houston midfielder Brad Davis and Toronto-turned-New York-turned-DC United midfielder Dwayne DeRosario, Rosales’ emergence in the past nine matches, where he has tallied four goals and six assists, are reminiscent of the caliber of season Schelotto had when he earned MVP honors in 2008.
That he is making that impact in his first season is not lost on Schmid.
“His adjustment to the league was a little bit easier that it was for Guillermo because Guillermo never played outside of Argentina. I think with Mauro playing for Ajax and playing in Europe and having experienced that, he had a better feel for what our league was going to be like,” Schmid said. “At the end of the day, they’re different players, but they’re both great players.”
While Schelotto didn’t directly play a part in Rosales coming to MLS, Rosales admits that Schelotto’s success in MLS increased his awareness of the league and the respect he held for its players.
He is also aware of the potential comparisons to his countryman and embraces them, saying, “He was a very important player for the league and hopefully someday I can be the same.”