When Mauro Rosales entered the match on Sunday against the Portland Timbers in the 56th minute, the Argentine changed the dynamic of the match. That he assisted on the game-winning goal just minutes later is no coincidence, as Rosales has been in form lately and has rekindled his connection with Eddie Johnson.
Sunday night’s header off a Rosales free kick was just the second goal of the season for Johnson that came from a Rosales assist. One year removed from a season that saw six of Johnson’s goals come from assists by Rosales, the duo now appears to be returning to that game-changing chemistry.
“It’s the connection that we couldn’t have this year because we’ve missed playing together or we’ve been in different positions. We haven’t gotten that regular understanding like we had last year,” Rosales said. “We couldn’t get in a rhythm, but we are getting it now in training and we hope it can work out.”
Because of injuries and international duty, the minutes that Johnson and Rosales have played together have been limited. Both mainstays in the lineup in 2012, the duo have just nine starts together in 2013.
Now entering the final third of the season, Seattle has been managing the minutes of Rosales to keep him fresh as the season wears on. As the playoffs approach, it appears to be paying off.
He hasn’t played more than 80 minutes in a match since June 8, averaging 73 minutes in the seven starts he has made in that 10-match stretch. In his last five matches, he has one goal and three assists, giving him three goals and a team-high six assists on the year.
“We want to be in great form in the last part of the season because it’s the more important thing – finishing the season and the playoffs. We have to be ready for that,” he said. “We have 11 more games to work on the communication and get everybody on the same page. That will help us end in the best form for the playoffs.”
For that reason, Rosales, a veteran of 14 professional seasons including time with Ajax in Holland and River Plate in Argentina, is not above coming off the bench if it keeps him fresher and helps the team win. This year, he has appeared off the bench six times and has missed just one match. This after missing 15 matches combined in the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
“It was very good that I got minutes in that game. I was excited to be in and I tried to help the team,” he said. “Anytime that the coach decided put me on the field I was mentally prepared to come into the field to do what I have to do.”
His six assists this season include four game-winners, trailing only Philadelphia’s Sebastien Le Toux and Montreal’s Patrice Bernier with five each for the league lead.
Seattle is now 23-2-7 all-time in MLS when Rosales scores or assists, but whether he is contributing to the final scoreline or not, all that he is concerned about is the final result.
“I was glad I could assist on the goal, but the important thing is that we got the three points and we played the game like the fans and our organization demands,” said Rosales. “It was a really good atmosphere and it’s great to give the fans the three points and a victory that puts us in a good position in the standings.”