After months of speculation, it is finally official: Mauro Rosales has re-signed with the Seattle Sounders. Exact terms of the deal were not released, as this is MLS, but the team has confirmed that Rosales has signed a multi-year deal that could make him a Designated Player.
Rosales' contract would qualify him to be categorized as a DP, but the team is holding off on finalizing that part until they determine if the required allocation dollars would be better used elsewhere. By waiting until closer to the season, the Sounders are maximizing their flexibility, although it remains unlikely that they would be able to fit another high-priced DP under the salary cap. This move does hold out that possibility, though, and also leaves open the opportunity to potentially sign a Youth DP, who would count less against the salary cap without requiring allocation dollars to pay him down.
Regardless of the designation, this is clearly a major step in the right direction for the Sounders' offseason. Along with finding Kasey Keller's replacement, re-signing Rosales was the Sounders' biggest item on their to-do list. After essentially falling into the Sounders' laps when his situation in Mexico fell apart, Rosales turned in a MVP-quality performance. Despite missing eight games with various injuries and only making 22 starts, Rosales scored five goals and logged 13 assists, while being paid just $42,000.
"I really am enjoying being here with the guys, with the team, with the people and the city," Rosales said in a team release. "In the first year I was thinking just to play, to enjoy the game, and it was a season of great joy."
But an injury on Sept. 17 cost him three games toward the end of the season and he re-aggravated that injury early in the Sounders' final regular-season game. As it turned out, Rosales logged just 36 minutes of playing time over the season's final five games and he was unable to even suit up for their playoff encounter with Real Salt Lake.
Rosales' absence was especially acute in the first leg of that Western Conference semifinal when the Sounders lost 3-0. Although the Sounders were able to pull within one goal on aggregate, they were ultimately unable to overcome the deficit and crashed out of the playoffs in the conference semifinals for a third straight year. It's easy to think that things might have been different if Rosales had been healthy.
By all accounts, Rosales is now recovered from that knee injury and is expected to be able to fully participate in training once the team officially gets back together on Jan. 20. One would imagine that Rosales will be in the running to replace Keller as the team's captain, as he was universally considered one of the team's on- and off-field leaders during his first year in MLS.
Even if he's not officially the captain, the Sounders clearly see him as a central figure on a team that is still pretty young at most of their key positions. Rosales, 30, is one of just six players currently on the roster who is older than 28 and could be Sounders' oldest starter. Rosales also has the experience of having played in some of the top leagues in Europe and South America, something no other player on the roster can claim.
In addition to his ability to speak well in both Spanish and English, Rosales has effectively bridged the gap between the team's Latin and American players. With Rosales in the fold, the locker room had a sense of cohesion. He was also among the team's most popular players among fans.
"It's no wonder he has become such a fan favorite," Sounders GM Adrian Hanauer said in the release. "His love for the game is evident; he plays with passion and joy, with a flair and an acute sense for doing what the game demands. Mauro has helped make us a strong club and with him going forward we hope to only grow in strength."
On the field, his contributions were even more apparent. With Rosales in the starting lineup, the Sounders went 13-3-6 and they were 10-1-2 in matches in which he either scored or assisted. During Rosales 1,870 minutes, the Sounders scored an average of 1.83 goals per 90 minutes and had a +16 goal-difference, according to independent research done by Sounder at Heart. In the 1,190 minutes the team played without Rosales, the Sounders scored 1.36 goals per 90 and were +3.
Obviously, other factors were in play, but Rosales' impact on this team was undeniable. That the Sounders have now locked him up for the foreseeable future can be nothing but a positive.
"Mauro was a huge impact on our team last year," Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said in the statement. "He played well and made others better with his service and use of the ball. We are pleased to have him back as a Sounder."