Prior to Sounders FC's match against the San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday, Alex Roldan discussed the topic of goalkeepers with his teammates during lunch. By that evening, he became one.
When goalkeeper Stefan Frei went down with an injury in second-half stoppage time, Roldan became the first field player in the club's MLS history to step into goal. He made three clutch stops to preserve the 1-0 win at San Jose.
“Cristian spoke to Schmetz and he mentioned me,” Alex told Keith Costigan and Kasey Keller in a post-match interview. “I am up for the challenge, I am up to help my team in any way I can. Obviously we grinded it out towards the end there, it was a tough match.”
Considering it was a mid-week match on the road against a pesky opponent who was riding a hot streak, it was always going to be a difficult match for the Rave Green. The Sounders deployed a 3-4-3 formation, rotating a few players into the mix, and were immediately challenged when Jordy Delem had to be replaced by Shane O’Neill just five minutes into the match with a leg injury. Cristian Roldan’s 18th-minute golazo gave Seattle the early lead and a much-needed spark.
Two second-half substitutions, João Paulo in the 60th minute and Brad Smith in the 83rd, put a cap on the Rave Green’s three in-match substitution windows. Disaster struck in second-half stoppage time when Frei landed awkwardly off a free-kick aerial challenge. He received immediate medical attention and couldn’t return to action. To finish out the match, the Sounders would be down to 10 men and put a field player in goal.
Enter: Alex Roldan.
It was a hand-gripping final moments, with the hosts continually pushing for the equalizer. Roldan stood strong, though, and made three heroic stops. In his first moments of goal, he jumped in front of the ball and took a blow by San Jose’s Jackson Yueill.
“I don’t understand how goalkeepers go through that, man,” Roldan quipped after the match. “It’s a tough position to be.”
Despite the late push by San Jose, Seattle held on for the 1-0 win. A result immediately stamped in Sounders’ lore, it will always make its way into the history books, too. Roldan becomes just the 12th field player in MLS history to appear between the posts, while the win extends Seattle’s 14-match unbeaten streak against San Jose dating back to 2015 (tied for the longest in club history with a run against Chivas USA).
“You see the fight in the team as the game is winding down then you see Alex Roldan being brave and making plays and the team rallying around Stef; this team’s not done.” Head Coach Brian Schmetzer said after the match. “We’ll get the next man up and we’ll keep moving and we’ll keep fighting.”
The Sounders have matched their best start in club history with four wins and a draw through the opening five matches. To cap the three-game week, Seattle hosts LAFC on Sunday night at Lumen Field (6:30 p.m. PT | FS1, 950 KJR, 1360 El Rey).