Andy Rose knows that his performance last season left a bit to be desired. After a rookie season in which he had four goals and four assists while playing more than 1,800 minutes across all competitions, the midfielder saw his playing time effectively cut in half and his all-competition production dip to one goal and two assists. While a significant reason was that the Sounders, as a team, played far fewer matches due to an early exit from the U.S. Open Cup and failing to qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League group stage, Rose saw a significant decline in MLS playing time as well.
Once a midfielder who exuded confidence and control, Rose's touch looked off as he struggled to find a rhythm in his second season. At one point, Rose went two months between senior-team appearances. Whether it was a lack of playing time that led to his seeming lack of confidence or his lack of confidence that kept him off the field is obviously something that can be debated, the results were the same.
Although he finished the season looking much closer to his old self, he seems to understand that he has a lot to prove in 2014.
"I have a little bit of a chip on my shoulder," Rose said prior to leaving with the team to Arizona. "I didn't think the year went as smoothly as it should have maybe. So I'm raring to go, want to get my form 100 percent, show really well in preseason and prove that I should be in the top 11. I just getting better and better everyday, getting more confident with the guys and being more of a leader in my third year."
The early returns have been good. As usual, Rose came into preseason among the most fit players on the team, performing well in all of the fitness tests. He also has looked good in the Sounders' first two preseason games, playing a team-high 105 minutes and moving the ball around the field with confidence.
Even more than his first two years, the Sounders could really use someone with Rose's particular skill set. As it stands right now, there's no obvious back-up for either of the Sounders' starting central midfielders: Osvaldo Alonso and Clint Dempsey.
"Today we asked him to play as the deeper midfielder, the role that Ozzie normally plays, and he did a great job there defensively," Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said following the 2-1 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps on Thursday. "But he also did a great job playing balls forward and playing a lot more penetrating passes and balls forward into the feet of people, where last year he was playing some of those balls square. That's something we've really encouraged him to do and tried to get out of him, and he's really working hard on that. So that's what we're most happy with. He's definitely confident right now because he sees that happening and going well for him."
Rose might not really be a like-for-like replacement for any other player in the starting XI, but he does have a skill-set that would be useful for any team.
"I'd hope so," he said. "I bring certain qualities to the table that make us a better team. I'm going to be competing whether it's a dimaond a 4-4-2. I'll track back, I'll go box to box, tackle hard, do well in the air, hopefully score some goals, keep the ball for us, bring my skill sets to the table and hopefully that's what we need."