Saturday, Seattle Sounders FC face former captain Mauro Rosales and Chivas USA in Los Angeles. When #7 in red takes the field, the Rave Green faithful will cheer. Sport rarely elicits complicated emotions, as the “us-versus-them” tribal reaction dominates. But Mauro Rosales, for his short tenure, was the Sounders.
The Seattle-Rosales love story is well known. Mauro embodied the classic American redemption narrative. Near the end of a prolific career, he arrived in Seattle unwanted and unheralded in the summer of 2011. He quickly displayed his quality and leadership, and was rewarded with a Designated Player contract after one season. He loved the team and the city, as he also worked hard off the pitch. Rosales was very involved with both community building and charity.
One of the great tragedies of American sport is when the culture-bearers of a team are moved for financial reasons. I wish Seattle had found cap space for Rosales, maybe an above-market, but reduced contract that allowed him to stay in the Emerald City. Of course this was wishful thinking, as the MLS salary cap is especially tight.
Rosale’s departure doesn’t affect Seattle much on the pitch. As a DP, he was no longer producing at his pay grade and he was too often injured. Talent-wise, the Sounders’s offseason reload was most significant with the trade of always goal-dangerous Eddie Johnson to D.C. United. The more emotional changes involved Steve Zakuani and Mauro Rosales. Zakuani to the Timbers hurt but during the epic 4-4 draw, I thought little of seeing Zak in the wrong color green.
Mauro Rosales meant more to this city. He was later to the party than culture-bearers Brad Evans or Ozzie Alonso, but his selflessness, class and talent embodied everything right about the Seattle Sounders. Rosales had a certain blue-collar class, or Hustle and Flair. Seattle is a dynamic franchise, playing attacking, attractive soccer, but a grinder ethos saturates this team. The city embraces players who exhibit this trait, the aforementioned Evans and Alonso, but also Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey. All are supremely talented, but not above the bump and hustle. Former Seattle greats EJ and Fredy Montero often fell on the wrong side of the fans’ appreciation because of the perception of loafing.
Mauro Rosales, in his prime, embodied that distinctly Seattle hustle and flair.