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Don’t look back: Sounders do it again against the Fire

Despite falling behind in a bad first half, the Sounders dropped the Fire 2-1 thanks to a pair of penalty goals from Albert Rusnák.

Last Updated
7 min read
Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

SEATTLE – The Seattle Sounders struggled to start, but once again erased a deficit as they went on to beat the visiting Chicago Fire 2-1 on Saturday. They didn’t make it easy on themselves, but their ability to overcome their mistakes through a pair of penalty goals from Albert Rusnák, another strong showing from Paul Rothrock, and the return of Pedro de la Vega provide plenty of things to be happy about at the end of the day.

Throughout the first half you could have easily been mistaken in thinking that Chicago were the home team. Seattle worked their way back towards something like respectability by the end of the half, but still went into the locker room being outdone in almost any meaningful metric you want to look at. The Sounders were lucky not to go behind in the 5th minute when Brian Gutierrez broke multiple lines with a pass to Maren Haile-Selassie who had only Stefan Frei to beat, but Frei made an impressive stop with his foot and picked up the ball.

That early look was a little bit of foreshadowing as the Sounders repeatedly ceded possession via turnovers from poor passing and sloppy possession until Chicago finally got on the board in the 30th minute. It was once again Haile-Selassie, this time played in by Gaston Gimenez. Alex Roldan played a pass down the line, presumably for Cristian Roldan but the pass came up short and Obed Vargas jumped out wide to try to pick the ball up but lost out on the duel. Chicago picked the ball up and worked it to Gimenez in a nearly empty midfield where he had time to pick his pass out and find Haile-Selassie in a pocket of space, then the forward nutmegged Jackson Ragen and put his shot past Frei to give the Fire a 1-0 lead on the road.

Seattle seemed to wake up some at that point, but despite putting on some pressure and creating a couple of dangerous moments they couldn’t find an answer before the break.

The Sounders came out of halftime with one change from Brian Schmetzer and his staff, swapping Alex Roldan for Paul Rothrock, and from that point everything felt different. Not even 10 minutes into the second half, Paul Rothrock was pulled down in the penalty area, keeping him from getting on the end of a threatening cross from Jordan Morris after the striker ran onto a great ball from Albert Rusnák. Referee Joe Dickerson went to the monitor and determined that a foul had been committed and Seattle was awarded a penalty. Rusnák stepped up to the spot and in the 56th minute he hit his shot low into the corner to the goalkeeper’s right, just beyond the reach of the diving Chris Brady to tie the game up.

With renewed energy and drastically improved vibes, Seattle continued to push. João Paulo had a couple of dangerous looks in the following minutes and Rothrock nearly got onto a rebound from one of them. Then Rothrock seemed to have earned a second penalty for a handball blocking a shot in the 65th minute, but VAR went against the Sounders this time and the penalty was waved off. Rothrock then suffered from an odd refereeing decision as he was kicked in the head by Brady well outside of the area and was called for a foul for his troubles.

Chicago had one last chance to retake the lead in the 71st minute when Allan Rigoni unleashed a shot that seemed destined for the back of the net from the top of the box, but Stefan Frei lifted up and got one big hand to it and pushed the ball over the goal for a corner kick. That play, and the introduction of Pedro de la Vega in the 76th minute, provided another burst of energy that carried the Sounders into stoppage time.

With Pepo on the field Seattle continue to push and created several chances as the game wound down before finally getting their reward when Morris drew a penalty at 90+2’. Albert Rusnák once again stepped up to the spot, and once again beat Brady by going low and to the corner to the GK’s right to take the lead in 90’+3.

The Sounders nearly added a cherry on top deep into stoppage when Danny Musovski had a shot saved but created a rebound with de La Vega crashing at the back post, but his sliding effort just couldn’t quite reach the ball to put a finishing touch on it. Still, the Sounders picked up another come from behind win. That marks their first winning streak of the season, and they’re now on a three-game winning streak at home and are undefeated in their last six games at Lumen Field. They next face the New England Revolution at Lumen Field on July 6.

Key moments

5 - Save! Chicago split the Sounders defense with a ball from Brian Gutierrez to Maren Haile-Selassie, but Stefan Frei makes a big stop with his foot.

30 - Goal, Chicago. An easy turnover on the right wing and an inability to get pressure to the ball results in an easy finish from Haile-Selassie to give the Fire the lead. 1-0 Chicago

45+1 - Jordan Morris gives Seattle their first genuine chance, running onto a through ball and taking a rip from a tight angle that Chris Brady is able to block out for a corner.

54 - An excellent ball from Albert Rusnák and a good run from Jordan Morris puts the striker in behind. He plays a cross that nearly finds Paul Rothrock, but Rothrock is pulled back. After review a penalty is called for the foul.

56 - GOAL, Sounders! Albert Rusnák steps up to the spot, and although Brady guesses right he can’t keep the shot out of the bottom corner. 1-1

59 - João Paulo runs onto a loose Chicago pass and lines up a shot from 25 yards out, but the ball fizzes over the bar.

62 - Another rip from JP after some possession around the box, and the rebound from his shot nearly falls for Rothrock but instead it’s out for a corner.

65 - A penalty is called on the field for an apparent handball on a shot from Rothrock, but after a trip to the monitor it’s determined no foul was committed.

71 - After some sustained pressure from the Sounders and odd refereeing decisions, Chicago go down to the other end and nearly retake the lead but Frei makes a big one-handed save to keep it level.

90+2 - Penalty! Morris sneaks in ahead of Mauricio Pineda to pick up a pass in the box and gets a hard kick in the ankles for his trouble.

90+3 - GOAL, Sounders! Rusnák steps up again, goes the same way and beats Brady again to take the lead! 2-1 Sounders

90+10 - Seattle nearly add an insurance goal with the last touch of the game as Danny Musovski hits a hard shot that’s parried into the path of Pedro de la Vega, but PdlV can’t quite get there as he slides in.

Quick thoughts

The undeniable power of Paul Rothrock: Paul Rothrock is not the best player on the Sounders. That’s not a particularly controversial statement, even he would tell you that he’s not the most skilled or talented player on the team. But there might not be a player in Rave Green who wants it more than him, and he’ll do whatever he needs to in order to help the team achieve their goals. His introduction at halftime sparked the comeback, he drew the penalty that tied the game up, and he was just a constant positive presence on the field. It’s approaching the point that he needs to be on the field one way or another whenever the Sounders play, because at some point his presence and the positive results that come with it can’t be a coincidence any more.

Getting the most out of the biggest players: Albert Rusnák had a brace in this game, bringing him to 3 goals and 9 assists for the season so far, but in the locker room after the game he insisted that it’s not about those stats so much as it’s about helping the team win games. That’s not just about him, that includes things like a team leader in Cristian Roldan once again dropping back to play right back in order to accommodate the inclusion of Paul Rothrock to start the second half. It includes Jordan Morris’ tireless running, whether playing as a striker or on the wing like he was when he drew Seattle’s second penalty in stoppage time, once again contributing to a winning goal after regulation even if it doesn’t result in a goal or assist to his name. With Pedro de la Vega returning and working back to fitness following his injury issues, and Raúl Ruidíaz resuming training after his suspension of sorts, Seattle will have all of their biggest and most important names available, and they all need to keep contributing if this team is going to reach their potential.

Stop hitting yourself: Chicago deserve some credit for punishing Seattle’s mistakes, but it can’t be denied that the Sounders’ wounds were self-inflicted once again in this game. Sloppy play resulted in more sloppy play, as Schmetzer indicated that a certain sense of pride from his team resulted in players failing to work as a team to try to make up for mistakes throughout the first half. It’s been a theme throughout this season, and I’m not sure where the source of the problem is but the team need to find and address it. Otherwise solid players are hitting bad passes and failing to pick up runners, and for all that they’ve done well to make up for those mistakes in recent games the road isn’t going to get easier as the season progresses and they need to do what they can to at least not make the task any harder than it already is.

Notable quote

Player spotlight

Paul Rothrock – Paulie “Windex” Rothrock didn’t fill up the stat sheet in his 45 minute outing, but once again a Sounders game changed for the better when he came in. He drew a penalty, seemed to draw another, nearly had a goal of his own, and probably should have drawn a red card for the Chicago ‘keeper. The guy just makes good things happen, and the vibes around the club would be abysmal if it weren’t for him.