SEATTLE — Before he was even 17 years old, Andy Rose had a rather significant life decision to make.
The Australian-born, England-raised captain of Bristol City’s U-18 team could either continue down his current path and hold out hope for a professional contract, or he could follow in the footsteps of his sister by playing collegiate athletics in the United States.
That he chose to attend UCLA may have seemed the more sensible and safe option. But it also may have been the best thing for his soccer career as Rose now finds himself a regular contributor for the Seattle Sounders and one of the rising stars in MLS.
WATCH: Rose's 1st MLS goal vs. LA
“I didn’t think at the time that I was ready to turn pro, I thought I needed to work on my body,” said Rose, who described his 17-year-old self as “tall and gangly.”
Making the decision easier was the fact that Rose had spent several years living in Chicago and his sister was a top 25-ranked tennis player at Northwestern.
As most college soccer programs aren’t in the habit of sending scouts to England, Rose knew that he would have to do some self-promotion in order to get noticed. So, he sent out a DVD of one of his FA Youth Cup performances to several top programs and waited to hear back.
One of the schools to show some interest was UCLA, which had made the College Cup finals in 2006.
“[Head coach] Jorge Salcedo watched me play Southampton away,” Rose explained. “I had a great game. We ran out 3-1 winners. It was a done deal from there.”
After being forced to sit out his first-ever game at UCLA because of his time with the Bristol City youth teams, Rose went on to have a standout four-year career. The Bruins made the NCAA Tournament every year and advanced as far as the semifinals in 2011. He also was named first-team all-conference his final two years.
Considering that, it was a bit of a surprise that Rose went undrafted in the first two rounds of the MLS SuperDraft.
The Sounders weren’t about to let him fall much further than that and were determined to get him even though they didn’t have a pick in the first round of the Supplemental Draft.
“When we didn’t draft him, he was one of the guys I was thinking we should have drafted,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said. “I always thought his approach was very positive, very professional. That he listened, that he learned, that he tried to take on board what you told him and I thought over the years his game improved at UCLA every year and that’s something that you look for in players as well.”
On the eve of the Supplemental Draft, the Sounders worked out an arrangement with Real Salt Lake. If Rose was available when RSL picked at No. 6, they would take him and trade him to the Sounders for the rights to Leone Cruz, a player who has since been cut.
“Obviously, not a good deal for us,” RSL general manager Garth Lagerwey said.
Lagerwey can at least take solace in the knowledge that RSL are just one of 18 teams that passed on Rose. Heck, the Sounders passed on him twice.
What the Sounders got, though, was more than even they bargained for. After breaking into the lineup with a surprise start May 5, Rose has at least appeared in all 17 of the league games in which he’s been healthy and was also one of two Sounders to start all five US Open Cup matches.
Despite not being known for his offensive skills, Rose has made the most of that time with four goals and four assists across all competitions.
“He does have that composure that you don’t see out of a lot of kids right out of college,” Sounders technical director Chris Henderson said. “He’s not afraid to speak up. During the game, he’s chatting with guys, he’s giving them information.
"A lot of guys don’t have that confidence coming into a pro team their first year. That’s going to help him. He’s a guy that you can talk to him and he’s really willing to learn, but I think all that experience leading up to his rookie year has really helped him.”
It would appear Rose made the right decision after all.
Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.