FC Dallas coach Steve Morrow was faced with a dilemma Saturday night in San Jose. With Dax McCarty bothered by a sports hernia and Bobby Rhine not quite ready to come back after missing time with a hip flexor injury, Morrow needed someone to fill the role wide on the right of midfield.
In FCD's first five games, Andre Rocha had the freedom to roam from his spot in central midfield. But for Saturday's eventual scoreless draw against the Earthquakes, Morrow moved Rocha to the right wingback role.
"I think it (him playing on the right) is definitely something he can do for us," Morrow said last week. "He's still finding his feet. I think we've seen glimpses of what he can do. But we know he can do better and expect more from him through the course of the season. That will eventually come as he gets more comfortable in his own game and the league.
"If we have to move him out right, I think he will give us a lot from that position," Morrow continued. "His assists have come from that area of the field. I think he can give us good deliveries from there and good energy up and down the field if we need it. It's a good option for us."
Signed just before the season from Brazilian partner Clube Atletico Paranaense, the 22-year-old Rocha has started all six games and currently has two assists, which ties him for the team lead with Arturo Alvarez.
Rocha's first assist came in the 35th minute of a 3-3 draw at Houston on April 6. He delivered a great ball to Kenny Cooper, who converted to tie the match at one goal apiece. His second helper came a week later when he hit a perfect cross for Alvarez to head home just 51 seconds into a match with New York.
Both Alvarez and Cooper know how fortunate they are to have someone as proficient as Rocha providing service for them.
"Andre has been a key addition to the team," Alvarez said. "He's a good player who works hard. He has been providing great service as well and the kind of service we need. We're glad to have him and hope he continues to deliver balls like that."
Said Cooper: "Andre has been great since he got here. He put me through against Houston and assisted on Arturo's goal against New York. He's already shown the quality that he's brought to the team and has already made an impact. He's a great guy with a great personality. We enjoy having him here and he's already made big contributions to the team."
Rocha said he also feels things are going well thus far.
"I feel like I am fitting well with the team and that the team is progressing very well," he said. "You can see that the team is starting to come together and progressing very well. With every practice, I continue to feel better about how I am fitting in and how the team is progressing."
But that doesn't mean that he didn't notice one major difference between soccer in his native land compared to the beautiful game played in the States.
"One thing is the physicality of the league," Rocha said. "In Brazil, when someone touches you, it's a foul. It's not like that here and I like that a lot."
Both Alvarez and Cooper have been equally impressed with how quickly Rocha has adjusted to the league.
"MLS is a really tough league to come into and to adapt to," Alvarez said. "He's a good player and a smart player. I think he's adapted well. In every game, he's gotten better and that's the kind of player that we need, someone who will come in and adapt to the league quickly so that he can help us right away."
"He has transitioned quickly and has made an impact early on in the season," Cooper said. "Hopefully, he will just continue to do that. It was great to get him in at the start of preseason and to have him here for two months. That was good because we got to know him."
Rocha took it one step further, adding that he feels like he knows Alvarez and Cooper well enough to be able to find them at any point during the game.
"The things we do at practice are becoming more automatic in games," Rocha said. "I know Arturo (Alvarez) will make a run this way when I look a certain way and it's the same with Kenny (Cooper) because they're both very intelligent players. We try to do that as much as possible in training so that we can apply that to games."
Steve Hunt is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.