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Observations from Sounders' 1-0 win over Houston Dynamo

A win's a win, right?

Last Updated
4 min read

When it comes to winning on the road in MLS, it’s smart to never taken anything for granted. No, the Seattle Sounders did not look particularly impressive in their 1-0 win over the Houston Dynamo on Saturday. You’d be correct in observing that playing up a man for 70 minutes — including 13 of which were played with a two-man advantage — should always result in a full three points.

Still, a win’s a win, especially when it comes on the road while you’re missing seven possible starters and I think we again learned something about this team.

Here were my big takeaways:

Big day for Seattle soccer

The Sounders set a franchise record by using eight players who came out of their academy in this game, two more than they used in that famous 2021 win over Austin FC in which they started five teenagers. It says a lot about their developmental structure that those players ranged in age from 28 (Jordan Morris) to 18 (Reed Baker-Whiting) and featured players on each of the three lines.

But this isn’t just a story about the Sounders Academy, it was also about the larger Seattle soccer community. If you look beyond the academy, there were nine players who featured for the Sounders who played either high school or college soccer in the area. Beyond the Sounders, there at least five more players on other MLS teams who fit that bill (Houston’s Ethan Bartlow; Miami’s DeAndre Yedlin and Ryan Sailor; Minnesota’s Hassani Dotson; and Dallas’ Nkosi Tfari). There are no shortage of regions claiming to be Soccer City or the Soccer Capital, but none of them are producing talent at this kind of clip.

Give the kid a contract

One of those academy products was Cody Baker, who started at left back for the Sounders and has now played in four matches while on short-term contracts. Baker got his shot mainly because the Sounders are really thin at left back and he had shown some basic competency there, but may have now established himself as Nouhou’s top backup. By MLS rules, Baker can’t play anymore games without getting a full contract, but the Sounders would be out of their minds not to give him one. While I don’t know how high his ceiling is, his floor suggests he will be a very solid defender for years to come.

Just living a dream

Another former academy player took a very different road to the first team. Paul Rothrock, who scored the winning goal, spent one year with the academy way back in 2018 before going off to college and playing two seasons in the Toronto FC organization. He apparently had an offer to play in England with League One side Wycombe Wanderers, but elected to return home to play for his old academy coach Wade Webber with Tacoma Defiance. I don’t know how likely he thought that would turn into first-team opportunities, but he’s definitely made the most of them. Rothrock has now scored in all three of his first-team appearances, the first Sounder to ever pull that off.

His game-winner came mostly through instinct as he positioned himself at the back post when Alex Roldan whipped in a cross that went through a sea of players, struck Rothrock in the chest and he managed to get just enough of it to poke it into the goal. It wasn’t pretty but that knee-slide he pulled off was just about perfect.

In search of offense

As good and necessary as that win was, it’s worth noting that the Sounders offense has hit a bit of a rough patch. This was now the fifth straight gam in which they’ve failed to score more than one goal. That they are 2-2-1 in that stretch is mostly a testament to their defense which now has a league-leading seven shutouts, but this is not the High-Life Soccer we were hoping to see more of.

To some degree, I think this is predictable result of missing key offensive players like Léo Chú, Cristian Roldan and Raúl Ruidíaz. Still, there’s plenty of talent on the field. Against Houston, it just looked kinda stagnant. I don’t think this is anything worth freaking out over, but it sure would be nice to score a few more goals.

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