2021 League Games: 21 matches, 15 started at 1405 minutes, 90.8% pass percentage.
What Went Right in 2021
Matheus Rossetto was a bit a bit of a conundrum for Atlanta United in 2021. He spent a vast majority of the first half of the season out due to personal reasons, COVID quarantine, and a hamstring injury. He even admitted that he had trouble adapting to MLS because of the whirlwind of happenings. When he arrived back into the first team he was naturally a bit rocky, but his play became much cleaner as he consistently started games in the latter half of the season, including in Atlanta’s loss to NYCFC in the playoffs. In fact, he finished 2021 as one of the top passers in the league, literally ranked just below MLS veteran and now-fellow midfielder Ozzie Alonso.
However, there is a point to be made about how many of those passes were simply short back-passes instead of purposeful, attack-oriented ones. A quick look at stats shows his clear passing talent, but he tends to receive the ball and progressively carry it forward (5/90 minutes on average) more than passing forward (3/90 minutes). This isn’t terrible by midfield standards, but it could be a clear focus to help unlock his game and control the center of the pitch in 2022.
An entirely separate point about what went right for Matheus Rossetto in 2021: Luiz Araújo. Folks absolutely can’t underestimate the mental and morale boost a person who’s living in a foreign land receives when they finally have a fellow countryman, friend, and native language speaker around them. It was apparent in both training and games that the two developed a good connection, and it seemed Rossetto started to benefit from Araujo’s work ethic.
Matheus Rossetto up now, saying that he considers this his best performance in an #ATLUTD uniform. Says that with pandemic last year and first half of this year with coaching change it had been hard to adapt to MLS. pic.twitter.com/0TCLSRtgjJ— Sydney Hunte (@SHWrites) September 11, 2021
Rossetto hasn’t had the goals or assists that he probably wants, but he has rapidly turned into a midfield force to respect. His teammates have described him as consistently calm, and the latter half of 2021 exhibited his abilities and arguably cemented why he should be a starter. The fact that he and Alonso have looked consistently strong in the preseason has to do with how well they’re connecting together, and that ice-cold presence (see where this is going) they both bring to the midfield is absolutely necessary if Atlanta wishes to be dangerous in every facet of the game.
2022 Season Outlook
In addition to the clearly significant ice haircut, Matheus Rossetto’s 2022 is entirely in his hands; he’s healthy and already playing some of his best soccer in a Five Stripes kit since his arrival in 2020. He naturally seems to be playing a bit more forward, which will likely take some teams by surprise as it did Birmingham in the final preseason match when he provided a nifty back heel assist to Josef. While he isn’t expected to be a goal-scorer, it won’t be surprising to see him with one or two this year, and likely with a few assists from pinpoint through-balls to MAMA, too.
The midfield pairing of Rossetto and Alonso has been fairly good thus far, though it’s yet unseen how Rossetto will pair with a healthy Santiago Sosa this year. Rossetto and Ibarra will be another interesting grouping; they had bright moments in preseason matches together, but they often seemed conflicting (Ibarra’s propensity to double as a bulldozer probably didn’t help that). It’s likely supporters will see more pairings of Rossetto and Ibarra with either Sosa or Alonso, and not necessarily together. Regardless, the most important thing for the team as a whole is that they actually have options at midfield.
While Rossetto may be looking to play forward a bit more, he and the other midfielders will also have the responsibility of tracking back a bit when Gutman, Hernandez, Lennon, or Wiley bomb up the wings. Last year, he clearly wasn’t as aggressive in defending as his counterparts, but the preseason has demonstrated that Pineda has made this task clear to every one of them. Now, Rossetto will have to put it into practice.
Ultimately, Rossetto will start quite a few matches this season and play in many more as a trusted midfield option. If he can fine-tune some aspects of his game, namely forward passes and a bit more aggression defensively, it’ll go a long way in locking down Atlanta’s midfield and increasing his value tremendously.
And yes, if he keeps the haircut he will be Atlanta’s new Matty Ice.