There's an American tradition of MVPs being on the best teams in any given season. Often these winners are surrounded by other good to great talents; on occasion a deserving player fails to win the individual award because of the overall talent level on the squad. Thoughts like this fail to recognize that just maybe the reason the team as a whole is so good is because of one man. The Seattle Sounders are a talent wealthy club and cases can be made for a few players winning the 2011 MLS MVP award.
None of those cases can be as strong as the one for Mauro Rosales. Due to fitness, injury and fixture congestion we can see how good Seattle is without the Argentine. The 5-5-3 record without him is decent enough. Over a season it would get them in the Playoffs. Thing is Seattle isn't an average MLS team, and a large part of that has to be Rosales. In his starts the team is 12-3-6. That's more wins in fewer games than Brad Davis has earned, while lifting a team from decent to great.
That's only one way to measure his impact on the team. Rosales' conventional stats are 5 goals and 13 assists in his 21 starts and 4 sub appearances. In less conventional statistics, he is the leader in Assists per 90 among players with more than 5 starts. Among the other assist men on the short list, he leads in goal scoring. His performance in the clutch has him with 5 game winning assists, good for third, and adds in 2 game winning goals. Like many of the greatest players in the game teams have discovered how to stop him: foul. They foul early and often. He is the fourth most fouled player in the league and highest among regulars as a rate stat of 2.80 per 90 minutes.
As is typical in soccer, statistics only tell some of the story. They do not capture the way that Sigi Schmid's team changes its style of play dramatically when they have Mauro Rosales on the right wing. They become a dynamic team with the ball at their feet, one with the potential to score frequently and create pressure from numerous angles. Rosales can run down a long wide ball and drop a one-time cross on the small targets that play up top for the Sounders. Or he can choose to dive inside using intricate interplays with Fredy Montero and James Riley to clog the top right corner of the box leaving someone open either far post or cutting through on a late run. A capable passer at all ranges he can also score when defenders lay off of him. After a turnover he applies defensive pressure willingly.
Rosales' recent injury may no longer have him the leader in the MVP race, but he's still more than worthy of the award. His play has taken a good team and made it great. If that isn't a representation of value what is?