Cristian Roldan is the root of so much for the Sounders FC this season – many seasons, really.
On a rainy Sunday at Lumen Field, it was the dirty work in drawing a foul in the box for a penalty kick and the glory in beaming an unlikely shot home for the game-winner. The eventual 3-1 result against the Minnesota United FC snapped a three-match MLS losing streak and kept the Loons winless in six tries at the facility.
As a sunbreak shined on the turf beginning in the 79th minute, the 32,613 in attendance were given the expected encore to the last Sounders match in the stadium being the CONCACAF Champions League title 11 days earlier. Sounders midfielder Nico Lodeiro added the emphasis with a casual strike in second-half stoppage time off an assist from Roldan.
“We as coaches never overlook all of the small details (Cristian) brings to the team and the game,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said. “Today was another good performance that I hope other people, not just the fans and us, I hope people are paying attention. That’s specific to a group of people (the U.S. men’s national team). Cristian is very valuable in his tactical acumen, his physical contributions and the guy’s a winner.”
Sounders midfielder Albert Rusnak had a perfect through ball to Roldan to dribble into the box for a goal in the 49th minute. Minnesota defender Brent Kallman fouled him, Sounders striker Raul Ruidiaz lining up for the penalty kick. The Peruvian made the shot to level the score in the 50th minute.
Roldan appeared to be squaring up to finish off a give-and-go with Ruidiaz in the 74th minute. Instead the U.S. international twisted around to rocket a right-footed shot past Minnesota keeper Dayne St. Clair for a 2-1 lead.
“Sometimes that reverse shot catches goalies off-guard, I was talking to (Sounders keeper) Stef (Frei) about that,” Roldan said. “That’s what happened. I’m obviously very happy that it went in, I was celebrating before it went into the goal, to be honest.”
The win sprung Seattle (3-5-1) out of the Western Conference basement but not above the playoff line.
“The West is going to be a dogfight,” Schmetzer said. “We’re not going to focus on anything but the next game, then, the next game. … Nothing is given here in this league. If we do our job this game, focus on the next one, next one, that’s the best way to hopefully move forward.”Minnesota (4-5-2) had six corner kicks before the half-hour mark and a gaping hole in the Sounders defense that should’ve resulted in a goal in the 30th minute. Loons striker Robin Lod erased all the missed opportunities with a goal in the 34th minute.
Sounders defender Nouhou bobbled a clearance in front of goal, Lod slipping in to net a left-footed shot for the early 1-0 lead.
Nouhou closed the half with a header that was high of goal, joining teammates Jordan Morris, Roldan, Lodeiro and Ruidiaz in stunning misses. Morris’ attempt in the 32nd minute looked like a given with St. Clair off his line. But the ball ricocheted off the post.
“We weren’t clean defensively, but good teams find ways to come back, fix things on the fly,” Roldan said. “That’s what we did coming out of halftime. The defensive aspect of our team has to get better, it’s a reality. We were so good in Champions League not conceding goals and that’s something we need to correct in MLS play.”
The same lineup that brought home the CCL title at Lumen – with midfielder Obed Vargas subbing on for Joao Paulo in the opening half – started against Minnesota on Sunday. Joao Paulo is out for the season with a torn ACL.
Vargas was shown a yellow card in the 10th minute, his fifth of the season. He’ll be fined $250 and suspended for Seattle’s match in Houston against the Dynamo on Wednesday for accumulation.
Seattle is without defender Jackson Ragen due to health and safety protocols.
Minnesota is without Michael Boxall due to illness, slotting in Kallman at center back. The Loons are on a three-game losing streak but were able to advance to the U.S. Open Cup round of 16 by defeating the Colorado Rapids.
The Sounders lost in a penalty shootout to the San Jose Quakes at Starfire Sports in Tukwila on Wednesday.
“It was a slow start, but we don’t have excuses coming into MLS play,” Roldan said. “When you play at home in front of a good crowd, we should, as a team with the quality that we have, win. That’s the standard that we have for ourselves and that’s a goal we set for ourselves each and every home game. … We have some ground to make up and it started with this game against Minnesota.”
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