Oriol Rosell, nicknamed Uri, would be one of the better midfielders in Maj..."/> Oriol Rosell, nicknamed Uri, would be one of the better midfielders in Maj..."/>
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The Barcelona Kid: Uri Rosell

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At first glance, it doesn’t seem like Oriol Rosell, nicknamed Uri, would be one of the better midfielders in Major League Soccer. He stands six feet tall, weighing in around 170 pounds. There is nothing about Uri that will give away the fact he is a professional athlete. That is until he commands the defensive midfield position for Sporting Kansas City. You only need to watch him play for a few minutes before you realize this 21-year-old has major talent, and will be one of the best midfielders in the league if Kansas City can hold onto him.

Jul 7, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Sporting KC midfielder Oriol Rosell (20) reacts after the game against the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park. Sporting KC defeats Chicago 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Rosell was born in Puig-Reig, Catalonia, an province in Spain with a growing number of citizens wanting to secede. Catalonia is home of arguably the best, and most popular soccer club in the world, FC Barcelona. And this historic club is where Uri’s professional soccer career began.

He joined La Masia, the youth academy that Barcelona operates. La Masia has an incredible roster of alumni, including current Barcelona stars Andres Iniesta, Xavi, and Lional Messi. It is so successful that it was featured in this 60 Minutes story about FC Barcelona.

Uri joined La Masia at the age of 14 in 2006. He spend six years in the academy before graduating to the senior side Barcelona B, who plays in the Segunda Division, the second division of Spanish soccer, right below La Liga. He made six appearances with Barcelona B.

It was in the summer of 2012 when Sporting was able to bring Rosell to the States. By joining Sporting KC, Rosell became the second La Masia graduate to join a MLS side. The other was Albert Celades, who played 17 games with New York Red Bulls in 2009. The big difference between the two players is that Celades joined New York at the age of 34. Uri was joining Kansas City at the ripe age of 20 years old.

When manager Peter Vermes was discussing the transfer of Uri, he said “[Uri] comes from an environment where they play the same way we do, and he can translate that to our system of play. There’s a lot of upside.”

Uri joined Sporting KC in August of 2012, appearing in five matches, with one start. That one start came in the playoffs against Houston Dynamo, where Sporting found themselves down 2-0 after the first leg was played in Houston the week prior. While Sporting would fail to reduce the deficit and crash out of the playoffs, there was one positive to take from that game: Uri Rosell was ready to make a name for himself.

When Sporting KC decided not to extend Julio Cesar’s contract at the end of 2012, it left the defensive midfield position empty, which many knew Uri would fill. And he has stepped into that role incredibly well. So far in the 2013 season Rosell has started in 23 of Sporting’s 24 matches. The only match that he missed was due to yellow card accumulation. A quick look at his stats show the Barcelona mentality that he picked up in La Masia.

He averages around 51 passes per game (this data was pulled from MLSsoccer.com, and no data was available for the July 7th match against Chicago), with a success rate of 84%. He also averages around four interceptions a game, which is a good indication on his ability to read the game.

Jun 22, 2013; Frisco, TX, USA; FC Dallas midfielder David Ferreira (10) and Sporting KC midfielder Oriol Rosell (20) go for the ball during the during the second half of the game at FC Dallas Stadium. The game ended in a 2-2 tie. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Statistics do not always tell the story. When watching Uri play, there is this sense of calmness about him. He never seems under pressure, even when an opposing player is running him down. His intelligence with the game is extraordinary. Rosell is a very integral part of the Sporting midfield, knowing when to go forward on the attack, or stay back and defend.

He is a joy to watch on the pitch, with perfectly weighted passes, a great defensive mentality, and he evens scores a goal every now and then.

Rosell has the potential to be one of the best midfielders in Major League Soccer. We are only through half of one season with him being a starter for Sporting KC. If Kansas City can hold onto the Spaniard for a few more years, it will be fun to see the type of player Uri can become.