Tuesday's practice involved a lot of tight spaces or one-on-one dribbling skills. The variety of games really emphasized quick decisions, controlled passes in small spaces and players that can slip through gaps themselves. It was a day built for #10s and those that can fill that role during a sequence.
It was a day for players like Mauro Rosales. Not the crossing Rosales booming in from the flank, but the Mauro of this year. A year removed from flinging a ball onto Eddie's head from everywhere Rosales is now the Key Pass leader, the Through Ball leader, second in assists, first in crosses and third in Big Chances created.
"My position when we have small fields you have to think quicker, pass the ball quicker. When you look you can't take one second or step because otherwise it is going to be a late ball for everyone. This is why I have to be aware, to concentrate and try to get the ball to them as soon as they get the position and space to shoot," Mauro said about the small games.
It also applies when he dives into the middle where a classic #10 would call home. There he is surrounded by defenders and must make quick, short passes. That space is where he will operate more often with DeAndre Yedlin on the field.
"I just know with the two guys operating on the right side I know that DeAndre is coming a little bit higher than Zach so then I have to push a little bit to the middle and if Zach's playing I have to stay to the outside because he is going to help me in the defensive phase, but I can attack with more freedom because I have his strengths behind me," Rosales compares his right backs. "He's very good at one against one, recovering and double teams. Then I have more freedom."
"With DeAndre he's more like me," he continues. "He can play easily in the midfield. I have to be aware to not lose the ball over there. Because if I lose the ball we're going to be two men down since he is also pushing high and I'm pushing high. There's going to be a big space behind us. I have to be aware of that too. Sometimes, I try to move to the middle to give him the space and help him when he gets the ball. Otherwise I can stay high and he can push a bit higher outside. This is something that we work in training and something that we like to do to improve some different offensive attacks"
That's a large part of the difference this year. The difference is not in wins and losses. Rosales-Yedlin on the right versus Rosales-Scott is essentially even, though there are many more games with Yedlin starting so the quantity is better on that side of the ledger.
What spaces being used and how they are being used is what changes. But, when Rosales is with Scott he can play higher, and still wide, he is still not crossing as much or as effectively as in the past.
"We have Oba playing higher than Eddie and he's behind. I can not find him sometimes. But if I see him coming up I can cross like I normally do, but Oba's strengths are with the feet. I have to try to be more low and not crossing so many balls, instead playing one-twos in that part of the field."
While the average position maps don't show it due to differing defensive and deep build-up play responsibilities EJ is into a space that Fredy Montero used to use. In 2011 Mauro had to combine with Fredy in the same way he needs to combine with Oba, according to Mauro. This creates an interesting thought experiment.
Oba needs the ball at his feet (when in the hole) or in space to run to (great when high), while Johnson is a strong header of the ball and hold up man, but is often set back from Oba. This limits the effectiveness of the typical cross and creates a need for a different Rosales.
It's something that he has done in the past. It is something that he needs to do now. His more typical partner on the right will put him more often in a space to thread the ball through or work triangles just at the top of the box. It's not the Mauro of the past. It's also not the Mauro as second striker, because in the '13 version of the Sounders he has two forward options ahead of him.
He will have those one-twos in dangerous places, those flick overs to EJ's head and fewer crosses. Big Chance creating Rosales could be coming back as the team figures out who the Ideal XI are. Mauro is still reading the game. He still has the footwork and passing ability though the speed is fading.
Tight spaces and dribbling skills are built for the #10.