This is what Sounders fans saw in their nightmares.
Seattle’s talisman, Mauro Rosales, goes down under a hard challenge in a meaningless final game. Rosales’ right knee, which had spent the past month healing from a Daniel Woolard challenge, bends awkwardly inward in the fifth minute of the Sounders’ 3-1 victory over Chivas USA. And an entire fanbase holds its breath.
WATCH: Full Match Highlights
In the end, the final score, the franchise-best point total, the 56 goals scored, they all matter little. The health of Rosales takes all the headlines before Seattle starts the playoffs at Real Salt Lake next weekend.
For head coach Sigi Schmid, the early indications are positive.
“I’m not sure if we have to do an MRI,” Schmid said Saturday night. “A lot depends on how he feels tomorrow. Today I think it was shock as much as anything else. He got hit right in the same spot, and I think he was more scared than anything else. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow and we’ll go from there.”
On the play in question, Chivas USA defensive midfielder Ben Zemanski earned a yellow card for the late challenge. The contact appeared to be knee-to-knee – Rosales needed several minutes before he was stretchered off the field. He was seen later in the match walking under his own power, but it remains to be seen if he’ll be ready for the playoffs.
Rosales had spent the past four weeks recuperating from an injury suffered September 17 against D.C. United. He returned to the field in Seattle’s 2-1 victory over San Jose Last weekend, playing 26 minutes and contributing an assist (his team-leading 13th of the season) on Sammy Ochoa’s game-tying goal.
Against Chivas, Schmid was trying to stretch Rosales’ minutes to prepare him for the upcoming playoff games.
Should Rosales be unable to go after this most recent setback, Schmid will need a contingency plan. Roger Levesque relieved Rosales early in the match, while Lamar Neagle is another goal-dangerous option on the wing. Neither player is a like-for-like switch, but few players in Major League Soccer can match Rosales’ composure and creativity.
Goalkeeper Kasey Keller, however, thinks Seattle can cover for the Argentine.
“Hopefully Mauro is not too injured, that’s the only real downside of the game,” Keller said. “We’ve been able to cover for people all season, and I see no reason why we won’t be able to now as well.
“Hopefully it’s not as bad as it kind of looked, but other than that, very good day,” Keller added.
Andrew Winner covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewWinnerMLS