The next "Trialist" for Seattle?
When I first noticed Gonzalo Pineda mingling among his fellow trialists and some first team members of the Sounder squad on that final Friday of training in Tucson, I saw a man comfortable in the boots he wore, and confident that he would impress. He was at that time only a mystery trialist to me, but with the help of Alan Hinton and the legion of Sounder's fans on Twitter, identifying him was only a matter of time.
That first morning he trained well, seamlessly integrating himself in the various passing drills and scrimmages, and even shared some personal conversation with the newest Sounder Marco Pappa, in their native tongue. He looked controlled and composed on the ball, quickly moving in to space to open up to receive the ball. Quick darting passes through the tightest of windows looked routine, like a great chef sharpening his finest knives. Effortless.
As I learned more about his playing history, and reflected on that Friday, I couldn't help but ask myself, "why can't he be the next "The Trialist?"" For those unaware, "The Trialist" is a term of endearment given to Mauro Rosales, as he rose from being a relative unknown trialist prior to the 2011 season, to a Designated Player and fan favorite.
Their pedigrees are eerily similar although their preferred positions may not be. Rosales arrived to trial at the age of 30, an Argentine with ties to Ajax, River Plate, and the national team (10 caps with the first team). Rosales is certainly the more offensive midfielder of the two, having netted approximately 40 goals prior to his arrival in Seattle. Pineda on the other hand arrives at 31, having played for El Tri over 40 times, and having played for some of the top clubs in Mexico, to include Pumas, Cruz Azul, Puebla. With only 10 career club goals and one with El Tri (see the video below), Pineda isn't being trialed due to his scoring abilities, but more likely his ability to defend, disrupt, and dictate the flow of the game in the midfield. But he does have one thing in common with Mauro, and that is quality service and a flair for the dramatic.
Certainly there are likely to be skeptics, citing his age as a primary concern and the fact that he has been out of contract for the last 7 months. As well, the FO appears to have focused on the future (translate: youth) with their recent 2014 Superdraft picks and original list of invited trialists, so a 31 year old journeyman seems a bit out of place. But none of us know whether or not Pineda has let himself go, and simply phoned it in. According to Pineda himself in June 2013 (translated from Spanish), "everyone tells me that (that I am young), and the truth is I want to continue playing."
I want to see Pineda in Rave Green, but minus the blonde hair.
And now here we are, less than 4 weeks until the start of the 2014 MLS season and Pineda remains with the squad, sounding more comfortable with the team as each day passes. Comfortable enough to perform golazos during training with Marco Pappa and Ozzie Alonso. And heck, he has even begun to convince at least one more that he may just make the squad (salary dictating):
@chamberiECS I'll say that I'm becoming convinced Pineda will make team as long as salary demands aren't crazy.
— Jeremiah Oshan (@JeremiahOshan) February 15, 2014
So I ask myself again, why can't Gonzalo Pineda be "The Trialist" of 2014?