SEATTLE — Missing Clint Dempsey, Jordan Morris and Nicolas Lodeiro, the Sounders knew they were going to need to get offense from someone new. It should possibly come as little surprise that it was Cristian Roldan who stepped up.
The Seattle Sounders midfielder — deployed in the No. 10 spot for the suspended Lodeiro — scored his first career brace, bagging a pair of goals about two minutes apart. Kelvin Leerdam added an additional insurance goal and the Sounders beat the San Jose Earthquakes 3-0.
Even better? The Sounders now find themselves just two points out of third place in the Western Conference and will be getting all three of their offensive stars back for Saturday’s game at the LA Galaxy.
With just a few days to recuperate and train after Wednesday’s epic comeback against DC United, the Sounders returned to action at CenturyLink Field against Western Conference rivals Earthquakes on Sunday. The team was missing almost the same players as they were earlier this week — Dempsey, Morris, Osvaldo Alonso — but they were also without midfielder Lodeiro, who was suspended after his red card on Wednesday.
Brian Schmetzer switched things up a bit by moving Roldan into Lodeiro’s spot, and putting the two fullbacks that started on Wednesday into midfield. Brad Evans and Joevin Jones played key roles from midfield in the comeback against DC, so Schmetzer gave both a starting chance in those positions. The fullbacks were also occupied by the players that filled them in the second half on Wednesday, Nouhou on the left and Leerdam on the right. Jordy Delem slotted into Roldan’s deeper midfield spot alongside Gustav Svensson.
Despite playing away from home, San Jose started the match brightly and forced a save from Stefan Frei just minutes into the match. Seattle went right back the other direction with a well-executed counterattack that Jones tapped wide of the goal. The Earthquakes had more chances in the first 15 than the home side, but after the first none were particularly dangerous. Seattle had another golden opportunity when Nouhou charged down the left side on a counter, but Will Bruin headed the penultimate cross wide.
After a tepid period in which neither team produced much near the goal, the Sounders had a flurry of attacks in the San Jose box that came close but never actually found the net. Bruin nearly created the perfect chance for Seattle to break through when he tried to lay off a cross to Jones, but the timing barely killed the opportunity. The Earthquakes nearly pulled off a perfect counter after catching the Sounders defense a bit flat-footed, but Nick Lima’s shot from the edge of the box flew over the bar. A few minutes later, Lima nearly opened the scoring for San Jose again after dancing past Nouhou into the edge of the box, but Stefan Frei easily caught his far post shot. The half ended scoreless, despite both teams getting a handful of solid chances that they just couldn’t put away.
The second half started on a slower note than the first, but the Sounders quickly earned a corner kick thanks to a full-pitch run by Nouhou. After nothing came of Jones’ set piece, the Earthquakes quickly went on the counter and were nearly rewarded if not for Frei’s low save of Tommy Thompson’s shot.
Things finally turned a corner for the better for Seattle in the 54th minute when they finally found the net through Roldan, who headed in Gustav Svensson’s flicked header off Leerdam’s throw in. The home side barely had time to celebrate Roldan’s first when he picked Victor Bernardez’s pocket near San Jose’s six-yard box and slipped it under David Bingham to get his two-minute brace. Things settled a bit, but Seattle showed that they weren’t finished scoring in the 65th minute when Leerdam pounced on a Jones corner to get his first goal in his first full start for the Sounders.
Roldan continued his electric performance, nearly earning his hat trick in the 78th minute by dancing through the box and beating the goalkeeper’s near post—but his shot clanged agonizingly off the post and out towards the corner flag. Aaron Kovar, who came on as a substitute for Brad Evans, controlled a perfect cross-field switch from Svensson with his chest and volleyed it towards goal, but it was blocked by San Jose goalkeeper David Bingham.
San Jose never really looked dangerous after Seattle’s goal frenzy, and the Sounders had the only real opportunities in the dying minutes of the match. Heritage Cup in hand, the Sounders finished their two-match home stand with 7 goals and 6 points.