The much awaited results of Mauro Rosales' MRI were reported on Tuesday and they aren't so great. Seattle Sounders coach Sigi Schmid called Rosales' availability for Saturday's MLS Cup playoff game at Real Salt Lake "iffy" and didn't exactly sound optimistic that Rosales would even be ready for the return leg next Wednesday.
"The MRI showed that he reinjured the MCL a little bit so we want him to lay low for the next few days," Schmid said at training on Tuesday. "Then we’ll take it day by day after that. We’ve got to let it calm down and then proceed from there. For this weekend it’s probably iffy, for Wednesday we’ll see."
Schmid did point out that the way the team handles injuries in the post season is different than how you'd treat it during the regular season. In the playoffs there is less reason for caution, he said, as at some point there's little upside to playing it safe.
"You look at it a little more," Schmid said. "In the regular season you’d not want this to be something that lingers and carries and carries, but when you know you are at a stage with a maximum of four games you know at some point you know it’s not going to linger. You know it’s a decision that we’ll have to get to. It’s the long term health of the player too. Mauro is a competitor. You saw it in the San Jose game. He only knows how to play one way – that’s full out and hard. When he goes back out there that’s how he’ll play."
Whether or not it's worth whatever risk exists is certainly a debatable point. The Sounders did manage to win their game at Rio Tinto Stadium earlier this year without getting a single minute from Rosales, but they were also aided by a 58th minute red card to Jamison Olave. Rosales did play all 90 minutes in the game against RSL at CenturyLink Field, a game the Sounders lost 2-1, and assisted on Fredy Montero's goal. But that game was also marred by a red card to Tony Beltran, which was shortly followed by a straight red to Jhon Kennedy Hurtado. Suffice it to say, it's less than clear what, if anything, can be learned from those two matches as neither was playing at full strength.
What we do know is that the Sounders tend to be better with Rosales on the field, even if he's less than 100 percent. Even beyond his obvious contributions of five goals and 13 assists in somewhat limited minutes, the Sounders have gone 13-4-6 in matches Rosales has played at least 15 minutes and 5-3-3 in all other matches. With Rosales on the field, the Sounders are +16 in goal-difference (.75 per 90 minutes) and just +3 in all other minutes (.15 per 90).
If Rosales is unable to play, the lineup choices to Schmid would be interesting. Generally, he's gone with Alvaro Fernandez and Lamar Neagle on the wings, but he has also tried Erik Friberg or Brad Evans out wide. Fernandez and Neagle are clearly the more offensive options, but Friberg and Evans tend to hold onto the ball a little better. Considering the Sounders' recent struggles with the counter-attack, this could be weighing heavily on Schmid's thought process.