RSL’s Giuseppe Rossi finding ways to pass time, learn about himself after COVID-19 halted his first MLS season

Giuseppe Rossi feels the COVID-19 pandemic, and the isolation it’s forced, from multiple angles.

The Real Salt Lake forward originally hails from New Jersey, where much of his immediate family lives. That’s one of the states hit hardest by the coronavirus.

Rossi played much of his career in Italy. He has family and many friends there, too. That’s one of the hardest-hit countries in the world.

On top of all that, Rossi has had to stay by himself in his apartment because his wife made a trip to New Jersey before the pandemic hit and has been there ever since. And, it doesn’t help that Salt Lake City, RSL and Major League Soccer as a whole are all new for him.

“It’s tough when you’re not from the area when you don’t know people,” Rossi said last week during a Zoom call with media. “So you try to find these little things — like a painting or like a puzzle or like a Playstation — and try to make that your whole day.”

Rossi has been making the best of his situation. He bought himself a Playstation so he can play FIFA. He’s in the process of putting together a 1,000-piece puzzle. He’s making a painting of a tiger. He’s trying to cook new recipes, even though he doesn’t consider himself much of a cook.

But he did manage to successfully make some lamb loin for Easter.

“It came out beautiful,” Rossi said as he demonstrated a chef’s kiss. “I was so happy. My mom was so proud. It was like a celebration.”

(Photo courtesy of Real Salt Lake) Forward Giuseppe Rossi prepares to ender the game during RSL's season opener against Orlando City SC on Feb. 29 at Exploria Stadium.

MLS is on hiatus until at least June 8, and its players can’t train fully until at least May 15. That’s left them relegated to group Zoom workouts and runs on their own wherever they can find space and a good trail. Rossi said he and his teammates — and, by extension, the entire league — are doing their best just to “feel like athletes.”

And for him, working out has been another type of escape from the current situation he and many others are in.

“I want to work out for 10 hours straight because your mind just goes to the workout and you’re not thinking about all the things that are around you,” Rossi said.

Fortunately, Rossi’s friends and family in New Jersey and Italy are all doing well, he said. That assurance seems to have allowed him to focus on and learn about himself. He said he’s learning that not everything in his life is under his control and to stay patient amid all the uncertainty.

Rossi also said prior adversity has informed his response to the coronavirus situation. As a player who has dealt with major portions of his career halting due to serious knee injures, he’s familiar with the feeling of not being able to do as much as he wants, when he wants. The only difference now, he said, is the people who supported him before can’t be there for him.

“That’s another aspect that I’m trying to cope with and I’m trying to understand,” Rossi said. “That’s something new. So I guess I’m adding something new to myself, which I thought I would never need.”

With all the extra free time, Rossi’s mind has been all over the place. But not once has he thought about retirement or what his life would be like after soccer.

“For some reason, that just doesn’t click up here yet,” Rossi said.

Instead he’s painting, puzzling, cooking, exercising. He’s even ventured into the the world of reality television, watching “Tiger King” and “Too Hot to Handle.” The latter show he ultimately didn’t recommend, but it’s an example of something he’s found himself doing when, in the past, it would have never crossed his mind.

“This quarantine is making you do crazy things,” Rossi said.