Giuseppe Rossi was hoping Major League Soccer would jumpstart his career.
Beset by injuries in recent years, the former Villarreal forward was signed by Real Salt Lake in February. He moved to Salt Lake City and made his MLS debut in the second half of the team’s opener against Orlando City.
Then everything came to a standstill because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Now Rossi finds himself isolated in an unfamiliar city while his wife is home in New Jersey.
The league suspended play March 12, when teams were just two games into the 2020 season. The latest training moratorium extends through at least May 15.
Rossi bought a video game console and is tackling a 1,000-piece puzzle. He’s even trying his hand at painting.
“Just going out and grabbing something to eat, getting to know the city a little bit more, I feel like that’s kind of been taken away. So that’s why it’s kind of hard to feel whole, in a certain way, “ Rossi said. ”It’s tough when you’re not from the area, when you don’t know people. So you try to find these little things like a painting or like a puzzle or like PlayStation and try to make that your whole day.”
Rossi, 33, was born in New Jersey to Italian immigrants but moved to Italy at age 12 to pursue a soccer career. He was still a teenager when he made his debut for Manchester United.
He joined Villarreal in 2007 and had his best season in 2010-11, when he had 18 goals and seven assists in league play. Back-to-back knee injuries slowed his momentum, but he still leads the La Liga team with 82 career goals in five seasons.
Rossi also chose to play for Italy’s national team, famously turning down an invitation to the U.S. national team’s 2006 pre-World Cup camp by then-coach Bruce Arena.
Rossi returned to train with Villarreal for two months last year. But because he’d been out of the game for more than a year, there was really no prospect of him returning to the club. Then the opportunity with RSL came along.
“It was the right energy that I felt from them. The right words were said. I felt as if they really wanted me to be part of this project,” he said.
Daily solo workouts are keeping his mind off his current situation, as well as the toll the virus has taken.
“I want to work out for like 10 hours straight because your mind just goes to the workout and you’re not thinking about all the things that are around you. You know, having my family in Italy, having my family in New Jersey, which is another spot that was hit hard,” he said. “It’s just like, ‘My Gosh, I just want to get this out of my head.'”
He has a list of things to see in Utah, which he’ll save for when he’s reunited with his wife. In the meantime, he’s doing his best to connect with his new teammates.
“I think I’m learning how things are not in my control, how I’m able to stay patient, how I’m able to to just go on with life, knowing that my destiny is not in my own control. So that’s something that I’m still learning about myself. I still have difficulty trying to comprehend, like, `How the hell are we in this situation?′ I want to go back to training. I want to go back home and see my family,” he said.