There's been a lot of virtual ink spilled, here and elsewhere, over the Seattle Sounders' inability to pick up a third Designated Player at the close of the summer transfer window. We know all about how the Sounders felt they were very close to getting their man -- generally believed to be Hoffenheim's Prince Tagoe -- but that they came up just short. After the way Mauro Rosales has been playing, though, I've been wondering if maybe the Sounders already have their third DP, he just happens to make about $42,000 this year.
Obviously, adding talent is better than not adding talent. I'm not going to try to make the argument that Rosales' mere presence makes the Sounders better than if they had signed another player. Assuming the Sounders were really after Tagoe, we can all fantasize about Rosales having one more weapon at whom he could direct perfectly weighted crosses.
What I would like to do is pretend this season is happening in an alternate universe where everything is exactly the same save for one fact: Mauro Rosales is making about 10 times more money and is the Sounders' third DP. In this world, the Sounders were not looking for a big-name signing as the transfer window. Fans were too focused on the three competitions in which the Sounders were competing to spend too much time worrying about the sweet nothings a Bundesliga coach may have been whispering into his seldom-used forward's ear.
In this world, the Sounders have the second best record in MLS, are getting ready for the U.S. Open Cup semifinal and are 1-0-0 in the CONCACAF Champions League. Mauro Rosales has four goals, seven assists, boasts a Points Per 90 of 0.85 and has emerged as a darkhorse candidate for MLS's Most Valuable Player.
Of course, we don't have to try very hard to imagine this world. The Sounders are, in fact, enjoying what could very well end up being the best season in their relatively short MLS history and Rosales is arguably the biggest reason why.
Rosales made his starting debut on April 2 against the San Jose Earthquakes, he has been among the league's best players. On that night, he assisted on Brad Evans' goal in what turned out to be a 2-2 tie.
At that early point in the season, the two goals represented a season-high for the Sounders. Turned out, it was a harbinger of things to come.
Rosales has now played 1,583 minutes this season. With him on the field, the Sounders score at a clip of about 1.5 goals per 90 minutes. In the roughly 750 minutes without him, the Sounders' scoring average dips to 1.1. Not surprisingly, the Sounders are outscoring their opponents by about .45 goals per 90. Without him, that dips to barely .12.
The actual results are even more stark. Rosales has started 18 games this season. In those games, the Sounders have gone 10-2-6, which translates to a Points Per Match of 2.0.
Not only is that a Supporters' Shield winning pace this year, but maintained over a 34-game season, the Sounders would break the post-2001 MLS record for points in a season (before then, there were no ties). That pace would also tie the 2005 San Jose Earthquakes for best PPM post-2001.
In the eight games in which Rosales has not started, the Sounders have claimed just nine points. That's a PPM of 1.13, or worse than eve the Portland Timbers (sixth worst in the league).
As with any great DP, what makes Rosales great goes beyond numbers. He never seems overwhelmed by any situation. Three of his four goals have come after the 80th minute and six of his seven assists have either tied the score or given the Sounders the lead. His teammates seem to love playing with him and fans have been smitten ever since he was revealed as #thetrialist.
I'm not saying the Sounders should just rip of Rosales' contract and hand him a 10-fold raise. Assuming he's not fielding offers from all over the world, there's no business reason to throw around that kind of money. Based purely on his performance, though, I know I couldn't complain. More to my point, if he was already a DP, would you think of him as anything less than a smashing success?