Amidst a seemingly ever-growing list of absences, two potential difference-makers have emerged for the Seattle Sounders.
Midfielders Mauro Rosales and Mario Martínez are both coming off arguably their best performances of the season, the two creative midfielders having provided a boost to the previously moribund Seattle attack in last weekend’s 2-2 draw at Philadelphia.
Chances are, Sigi Schmid will be leaning on the pair again on Wednesday at Sporting Kansas City (8:30 pm ET; MLS Live).
Rosales had a goal and an assist against the Union, the first time he’s done that since Aug. 27, 2011, and looked very much like the player who was named Newcomer of the Year that season and less like the one who has found himself coming off the bench at times this season.
“Mauro worked very hard on his fitness in the week break that we had, and I think that helped him,” Schmid explained. “Overall I thought Mauro’s game was definitely much closer to what we expect from Mauro every time he’s out there, and I thought it was his best game of the season.”
Like Rosales, Martínez has been somewhat limited by fitness concerns. The Honduran international missed a couple matches earlier in the year while he was on national team duty, and has struggled to earn a consistent spot in the starting lineup since his return.
He was again used in a reserve role against the Union, but made an immediate impact after entering in the 62nd minute. Martínez’s penetrating pass unlocked the defense and set up Leo González’s cross to Rosales for the equalizer.
It was a play that earned a valuable road point for the Sounders, and doubled as Martínez’s first MLS assist.
Schmid, for one, thinks he can give more.
“Mario needs to be what he was for us in preseason, where he was very aggressive with the ball, where he was willing to go at the defense and carry the ball forward,” the coach said. “If he bogs down and starts playing and squaring back in midfield all the time, it’s tough for us to be able to combine forward. We want him to combine, but we want him to combine about 20 yards further up the field then he was doing at times in games.
“But I think he’s somebody who’s a very talented player. We haven’t lost faith and confidence in him, and we’re looking forward to him being 100 percent. Right now he’s indicated that he feels good right now, so that’s important, and when his opportunity comes taking full advantage of it.”