It was a subtle move, but one that spoke volumes.
Leaving Tuesday morning’s training session and heading to a team meeting, Mauro Rosales sported a co-branded adidas/Star Wars jacket. On the right chest of the jacket was the phrase, “The Force is strong with this one.”
Anyone with cursory knowledge of the Star Wars franchise can see the correlation between the phrase and the Sounders FC midfielder with it emblazoned on his jacket.
As Mauro Rosales goes, so do the Sounders and that becomes even more vital come playoff time.
In his two years with the Sounders, he has been a vital element in the team’s success. In games that he has a goal or an assist, the Sounders went 8-0-4 this season. Similarly, in 2011 the Sounders went 10-1-2 when Rosales scored or assisted in the match.
During the playoffs, it is those key moments that make all the difference and Rosales is the player that provides them for the Sounders.
“Games are decided on very few things, but the game itself is always the same,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “Within a 90 minute game, each team has moments where they dominate the game. You have to score when you dominate the game and you have to make sure they don’t score when they dominate the game. If you do that, you win.”
Last year, the Sounders had to make a go of it in the playoffs without Rosales.
He joined the Sounders late in training camp, but quickly integrated himself into the roster and went on to set a club record with 13 assists – the third-highest total in the league – to earn MLS Newcomer of the Year honors.
This despite missing nearly a month late in the season after suffering a torn knee ligament after a bad tackle against DC United. He came back to get some game action before the playoffs, only to have another bad tackle against Chivas USA knock him out of playoff action where the Sounders fell 3-2 on aggregate to Real Salt Lake.
“Last year was very bad watching the team from outside knowing you can’t help the team in any way,” Rosales said.
This season started similar to how last season ended for Rosales. After one match he missed a month with a knee injury, but still went on to finish third in the league with 13 assists. A quad strain would keep him out of three games in September, but it was an otherwise healthy year for the 31-year-old former Ajax and River Plate midfielder.
Now he is preparing for his first playoff appearance with the Sounders FC as they take on Real Salt Lake in a rematch of last year’s Western Conference Semifinals.
“I’m excited to be in the playoffs,” he said. “I have my opportunity now.”
The first leg of the aggregate-goal series will be Friday at 7 pm Pacific at CenturyLink Field. The return leg will be on Thursday, November 8, at Rio Tinto Stadium.