Few players in Major League Soccer can make as dramatic an offensive footprint on a match without ever taking a shot the way Sounders FC midfielder Mauro Rosales can.
When healthy, his ability to will a team to success puts him among the elite players in MLS. In two seasons, he has amassed 26 assists, second only to Houston Dynamo midfielder Brad Davis, who had 28 in the same span.
That is one reason why Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid is confident that his team can succeed in 2013 without the club’s all-time leading scorer, Fredy Montero, who was loaned out to Millonarios in Colombia in a year-long loan finalized on Monday. Although the team is searching for a replacement for Montero’s scoring prowess to pair with last year’s top scorer Eddie Johnson, that search is not at the point of desperation that it might be without the club’s captain, the Argentine Rosales.
“I feel confident we can open the season with the people we have here. We want to make sure the guy we bring in is the right guy. We don’t want to feel ourselves with our backs against the wall making a decision just to make a decision and bring in the wrong guy necessarily,” Schmid said. “From that standpoint, we have enough confidence in what we have, but we’re also looking.”
Rosales leads in many different ways.
His relentless effort on the field brings a similar work-rate from his teammates. He also verbally directs traffic in a much more subtle way than many leaders of men in the soccer realm.
While Montero and defender Jeff Parke are the only regular starters the Sounders will look to replace in 2013, it will take some adjusting to get the team on track to start the season.
While the Sounders have forward options in David Estrada and Sammy Ochoa and flexible players like Rosales, Mario Martinez, Christian Tiffert and Steve Zakuani, there are also new faces all around the training grounds at Starfire, including 2013 MLS SuperDraft pick Eriq Zavaleta.
Choosing from among that group and possibly bringing in another player will be a trying task for Schmid in preseason, particularly with the caliber of player that left.
“It is a lot of work for the coach to see what is better for the team. It’s no easy thing to (replace) Fredy because he is a really, really good player,” Rosales said.
Meanwhile Schmid points out the effort required of the rest of the team to fill the void. While with the LA Galaxy, salary cap restraints forced Schmid to trade former Defender of the Year Robin Fraser. More concentrated efforts on the defensive side and the out-of-retirement addition of Alexi Lalas helped keep the Galaxy afloat.
Similar role changes may need to take place for the Sounders to maintain the pace that has kept them with the second-best record in MLS over the last four years.
“We have to work a little bit harder than last year. We have to take this one like it’s the last one (we’ll get),” Rosales said.
With Rosales commanding the ship, they are a strong bet to remain among the top teams in the Western Conference.