He showed up seemingly out of nowhere one day while the Sounders FC was in preseason training in Bradenton, Florida.
He joined the team for their daily warm-ups for the morning session on February 24, then listened in closely to head coach Sigi Schmid’s instructions to the group after a period of stretching and fitness exercises.
Then the group broke out in song, singing “Happy Birthday” to the trialist from Argentina.
That brought a smile to the face of Mauro Rosales and, he said, was a sign to him that he would fit in just fine with his future teammates.
“From that moment, I was one of them,” he grinned. “It was my first day and nobody knew me. Now I can say that it was a good decision to go to Florida to meet the team and the staff. They took care of me and this was one of the reasons why my decision was easier.”
On March 18, he officially signed with Seattle and he made an almost immediate impact. After two brief substitute appearances, he picked up an assist in his first start, a 2-2 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes.
Then he announced his presence with authority in his first home start against the Chicago Fire, whipping a ball from the right side that only O’Brian White could get to. White then smashed a header into the net for a goal in Seattle’s first win of the season, a 2-1 triumph over the Fire.
He went on to tally five goals and 13 assists and on Tuesday it was announced that Rosales won the 2011 MLS Newcomer of the Year vote in a landslide over the closest competition, New York Red Bulls forward Luke Rodgers.
Over the course of the season, he inserted himself into the MLS MVP conversation, particularly after a stretch of 11 matches that saw him amass four goals and nine assists. Unfortunately, he suffered a right knee sprain in the waning moments of the final game in that stretch and only returned to the field for 36 minutes of the final five matches of the season.
Before he came to MLS, he had seen some of the league’s games before, paying particular attention to Seattle’s matches. He’d always enjoyed the country, having played in Chicago, Miami and New York with the Argentina National Team and hoped to one day call it home.
With his performance with the Sounders – and the reception from the crowds at CenturyLink Field that exceeded an average of 38,000 in 2011 – he found himself encouraged that Seattle would be that home for him.
“I always wanted to live in America. I’ve always been in love with this country,” he said. “The organization is exceptional. I think the decision was the best I’ve made.”
Rosales becomes the second player for the Sounders FC named MLS Newcomer of the Year. Fredy Montero beat out finalists, and teammates, Kasey Keller and Freddie Ljungberg for the award in 2009.