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Paul Rothrock carving own path to first-team minutes

We may have all underestimated what kind of impact to expect from the Seattle native.

Last Updated
3 min read
Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

When Paul Rothrock first signed with the Tacoma Defiance last season, he was well aware that it was probably his last chance at making a career in professional soccer. In an era when it’s become common for MLS teams to sign players straight from the academy, Rothrock had already played four years of college soccer, been drafted by Toronto FC and spent two years playing mostly for their developmental teams.

In deciding to join Defiance, Rothrock at least knew he’d be in a familiar environment. Not only would the Seattle native be coming home, but he’d also be playing for Wade Webber, who had been his coach during his one season with the Sounders Academy.

It went about as well as he could have hoped. In 21 appearances with the Defiance, Rothrock had seven goals and five assists. That helped him get a shot with the Sounders, where he started his career with two goals in the U.S. Open Cup and then scored a memorable game-winner in his MLS debut against the Houston Dynamo.

Although he earned a first-team contract, he only made one more MLS appearance and went into 2024 knowing that his future was far from secure.

Two-thirds of the way through his second season with the Sounders, Rothrock is well on his way to carving out a regular role for himself. Although he’s only made one MLS start, he’s made 12 league appearances and two more in the Open Cup. More importantly, he’s becoming a reliable contributor, with three goals across all competitions, and has been a catalyst for the Sounders during their four-game unbeaten streak. Rothrock has appeared in all four games, on the field for all nine of the Sounders’ goals during that time, scored two himself and drew the penalty that led to the equalizer against the Chicago Fire.

“I know my path is different,” Rothrock said. “My opportunities, given my age and profile, are different as well. I knew going into Defiance that was probably my last year in a second-team system and I was either making it through or figuring something else out. 

“Even though I don’t have a ton of games under my belt in MLS, I do still feel like I can play as an experienced player.”

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