After the latest Seattle Sounders victory on Sunday, Mauro Rosales mentioned how happy he was that he made the decision to come to Seattle.
Surely, the feeling is mutual.
Rosales turned in a superb shift at striker to lead Seattle to a 2-1 victory over the New England Revolution, for the club's third straight win and second place in the Western Conference. In the process, he outshone designated player Fredy Montero on Sunday afternoon, replacing him at forward and raising questions about the future of Seattle’s attack.
WATCH: FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS
Montero missed Sunday’s game with tightness in his right quadriceps, an injury which forced him out of Thursday's win against the New York Red Bulls.
“We put him [Rosales] inside to play in the Montero role for us today,” Schmid said. “He interprets that role a little different than Fredy does ... I thought he was probably our best player today.”
Throughout the match, Rosales enabled the offense from his striker position. He showed a veteran’s understanding of when to hold the ball as well, allowing the rest of the team to join the play.
Roger Levesque, the fellow 30-year-old who started alongside Rosales, complimented his strike partner on his effort against New England.
“He’s amazing. He’s unbelievable,” said Levesque, who along with Rosales earned an assist on Alvaro Fernandez’s game-winning goal. “Just the effort that he’s shown in the past three games ... he’s out there and he’s working as hard, or harder, than anyone else out there.
“That’s not to mention how good he is with the ball at his feet. He sees things and keeps the ball.”
Perhaps just as remarkably, Rosales’ fitness has allowed him to play his third match in eight days. He has logged 269 minutes in the stretch, coming out late against the Revolution as the Sounders attempted to kill off time.
Against New England, Rosales shouldered the load of a target striker, absorbing a substantial amount of punishment during the physical match, especially up against Revolution centerback Ryan Cochrane. The Argentine drew the set piece that was converted by Tyson Wahl for the equalizer and also forced Cochrane to pick up a yellow card for a reckless tackle in the 72nd minute.
No matter the physical toll of the previous match, Rosales, who is among the league leaders in fouls suffered, always seems ready to answer the bell in the next one. Schmid showed no hesitation playing Rosales for the third consecutive game despite his age and recent workload.
“His fitness is there,” Schmid said. “[Fitness coach] Dave Tenney has done a good job and Mauro has done a good job. He does a good job of getting extra fitness in on his own. He’s very diligent that way.”
Certainly, Rosales’ emergence for the Sounders can be nothing but positive. After Tuesday night’s US Open Cup match against the Kitsap Pumas, Seattle will have a full week of training before traveling to Los Angeles for a July 4 road game.
Schmid talked about using that rest to help midfielder Brad Evans recuperate, but the same will also hold true for Montero. In Thursday night’s game against New York, Montero felt tightness in his right quad that prevented him from striking a ball forcefully.
The return of Evans and Montero to full strength will only make Schmid's lineup decisions that much more interesting.
Andrew Winner covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewWinnerMLS