Two years and two months. That’s how long it had been since Real Salt Lake forward Giuseppe Rossi played 45 consecutive soccer minutes.
Prior to his arrival at RSL, Rossi hadn’t played competitive soccer for nearly two years. He tried out with teams like Manchester United, LAFC and Villarreal, though none of those stuck.
So when this season came around and Rossi, in limited minutes, started showing glimpses of his potential contributions, there was optimism all around. But the playing time wasn’t yet there because he wasn’t yet fit enough to play extended minutes.
The COVID-19 pandemic shutting down the Major League Soccer season didn’t help matters any, although Rossi used working out as one of the ways he kept busy while he couldn’t train or play games.
When the season resumed, however, Rossi still was used as a substitute, and mainly within the final 20 minutes of the game. The lack of minutes started to wear on him.
“Obviously there’s a lot of frustration when you don’t play,” Rossi said Friday on a video call with reporters.
RSL AT MINNESOTA UNITED
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To curb that frustration, Rossi said with a smile that he’s been doing a lot of “deep breathing.” In addition, he’s also been focusing on training as hard as he can as well as setting a positive example.
“You don’t want the frustrations to take over,” Rossi said. “You want to continue inspiring. You want to continue showing your teammates that with hard work, with a lot of perseverance, with a lot of sacrifice, you’re able to accomplish a lot of things.”
In the last two games, Rossi has accomplished a lot. He scored his first MLS goal in the draw against the Portland Timbers, and his 45 minutes in the draw against the Seattle Sounders gave a strong indication that he’s beginning to turn the corner with his fitness.
Captain Kyle Beckerman said Rossi has been “working his tail off” in training sessions and that the team knew it was only a matter of time until Rossi found his first goal, which would help raise his confidence. At this point, Beckerman said, all Rossi needs is more run.
“You’re just seeing him get into form,” Beckerman said. “For him he just needs games, just needs more minutes. As time goes, he’s going to get that.”
Coach Freddy Juarez said what he’s been looking for from Rossi is for the forward to reach the point where he’s going after the ball more often, making extra effort plays. He mentioned a sequence where Rossi went for a tackle after chasing down a defender.
“Those things start telling me, OK he’s doing something other than his comfort zone and that starts giving me a better indication that he’s getting fitter,” Juarez said.”
RSL signed Rossi in the offseason in a move the front office hoped would yield high impact from him, even if it carried some risk. Rossi has a history of serious knee injuries for which he’s undergone surgery.
Rossi may get a start soon, particularly if the next phase of MLS’s return to play consists of having to play multiple games in one week. But even with him recently reaching a higher level of fitness and contributing on the field, Rossi knows he’s not guaranteed anything given his recent history.
“I don’t take anything for granted,” Rossi said. “I know what it feels like not being on the field — if it’s injuries or whatnot. So when I’m on the field, I love it.”