The Seattle Sounders played like champions Friday night in front of the Emerald City faithful, beating Real Salt Lake 3-2. The winner came at the death with Andy Rose striking true from about twelve yards out. Andy Rose. Andy freakin’ Rose. Can you believe it?! No offense to Obafemi Martins (or, um, that guy who captains the USMNT) but Rose is the hottest player in Rave Green.
Great teams build their team purposefully and with a dedication vision. Much is said of RSL building their team the right way: through coaching, scouting and player development, not flashy big-name signings. Rose, however, is one example of Seattle out-Salt-Lake’ing Salt Lake. Drafted by the Claret and Cobalt, Rose was immediately traded to Seattle for the rights of promising young defender Leone Cruz. Cruz is finally a pro, toiling away with the San Antonio Scorpions of the NASL while Rose, slowly brought along and coached up, is an MLS star in the making.
Andy Rose is an incredible story. Once upon a time, he was a plucky project clocking too many minutes for a team built to win now. In 2012, Rose was a freshly signed rookie who kept finding himself clocking meaningful minutes. The Sounders had Ozzie and Mauro and Evans and even Christian Tiffert, but somehow this 22 year-old kid kept popping up in the lineup (much to the chagrin of the fan base). We grumbled because Rose wasn’t a big named star, a hot prospect or even an accomplished but unsung veteran. Though Rose acquitted himself well, he was just some kid. He was too easily seen as a weak link on a club with such lofty ambitious as Seattle.
Last year Rose suffered a helluva sophomore slump, seeing his minutes and production greatly decrease. It was easy to think Rose would be one of many professional soccer aspirants who’d fade into obscurity (hello Alex Caskey). An injury early this season further complicated Rose’s return to the first team, but recently he has recovered and been reborn.
Andy Rose is a weapon. I never predicted Andy Rose would become a player I want to see on the field, but damn, we need more Andy! Rose is killer on set pieces. He creates what an (American) football coach would call a “matchup problem.” This time it isn’t a bulky linebacker trying to cover Jimmy Graham, but the third or fourth best defender flailing at a 6’2’’ Rose’s confident strikes. When the Sounders set up for a corner, the opposition immediately puts their best aerial defender on Chad Marshall and Zach Scott, as both are deadly. Of course, Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins attract attention, leaving that poor overmatched guy to contend with Rose. The Sounders will take that matchup every day of the week and twice on gameday. Literally. The reborn Rose had his coming out party in mid-August against the Chicago Fire in the semifinals of the US Open Cup scoring twice on set pieces. Last week against Chivas USA, in his next significant minutes, he again scored twice on set pieces. So Friday’s dramatic last-minute winner was actually kind of a letdown for the Aussie. He only scored once.
That sound you hear is the rest of the league collecting evacuating their bowels. A team with Dempsey, Oba, Pappa, Neagle, Barrett and Cooper just added another weapon. The Sounders have been winning (2 ppg!!) without a plethora of dedicated set piece targets, but now can diversify their attack even more. And the best part is, the Sounders didn’t even have to make headlines or look outside their own locker room to find this player. They just had to wait for one of their own to develop, get coached-up and start believing in himself. Andy Rose is a testament to the Seattle Sounders and their system. Hell, I never thought I’d say this, but Andy Rose may very well be the difference that puts Seattle into soccer nirvana.