Former Sounder wishes he could have stayed in Seattle

The Seattle Sounders traded away midfielder Mauro Rosales during the offseason even though neither the team nor Rosales really wanted it to happen.

Sounders officials say it was primarily Major League Soccer salary cap issues that led them to send their career assists co-leader to Chivas USA. Meanwhile, Rosales never has hesitated in expressing how much he came to love playing in Seattle.

“It wasn’t easy, but as a player you have to accept any kind of decision,” he said by phone interview. “… I wanted to stay in the MLS, and I’m glad that Chivas USA gave me the opportunity to keep playing over here. But obviously everybody knows my feelings about Seattle, about the city and the club that gave me the opportunity to come to the MLS, and they gave me so much support and the kindness of the people over there. You’re never going to forget, you know?”

Rosales faces his former team for the first time at 7:30 p.m. Saturday when the Sounders visit Chivas at StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.

Rosales, 33, played most of the first decade of his professional career in his native Argentina with seasons at clubs such as River Plate and Newell’s Old Boys sandwiching a run from 2004-07 with Ajax of Holland.

He signed with the Sounders in 2011 and over three seasons matched Fredy Montero’s club record with 34 assists. He appeared in 86 games and regularly wore the captain’s armband.

“He’s a great player,” Sounders designated player Clint Dempsey said.

“He was a good captain, a good player for the team, with good team chemistry. He had a lot of experience, had a great career and he’s doing well this season for Chivas. … No one can question what he brought.”

However, on Dec. 11, 2013, the Sounders traded him to Chivas in exchange for Tristan Bowen, a midfielder 10 years younger. Allocation rankings also were swapped in Seattle’s favor, which led to the signing of midfielder Marco Pappa.

“I get it was just the salary cap that they couldn’t afford – just that,” Rosales said. “Obviously they wanted to renew the team. For them probably I’m a little bit as a veteran already they were looking for younger players and you have to accept the decision of who is making the team, and the team that wanted me on the roster was Chivas USA.”

Through six games this season Bowen has not yet made his Sounders debut, while Rosales’ three assists in six Chivas matches ranks him second in MLS.

Also sent from Seattle to Chivas this season in an unrelated move was Eriq Zavaleta, the Sounders top pick in the 2013 SuperDraft. Zavaleta was sent on season-long loan to Chivas, where the forward/defender is being used exclusively as a center back.

“Mauro seems to be doing well,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “Sometimes with the salary cap and everything you can’t keep everybody. And for Eriq, he felt that the opportunity to play there as a defender was a thing that he wanted to take. He’s gotten a lot of games.”

Zavaleta will be inactive Saturday due to MLS rules prohibiting players to oppose the clubs that loaned them out.

However, there is nothing to prevent Rosales from facing his former teammates for the first time. And he admits it he has thought about what that will be like.

“It’s going to be weird,” he said. “But obviously now I’m facing new things in my career with Chivas and I have to give everything that I have to them. But like I told you, it is difficult to be facing the team that opened the door to the MLS and also not just the door, but the heart of many fans over there and teammates. Obviously, I will be thankful forever.”

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