Player Features

Paul Rothrock capitalizes on opportunity with huge goal in win over Minnesota

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The irony of overnight success is that it is almost always a long time coming. There are countless things done behind the scenes before anything comes to fruition.

For Seattle Sounders midfielder Paul Rothrock, who scored just his second career MLS goal in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Minnesota United, the opportunity he took advantage of was one that he had earned in silence.

The Sounders were dealt a blow in the first minute on Saturday when defender Alex Roldan collided heads with Minnesota defender Devin Padelford. Roldan exited the match and entered concussion protocol.

Rather than bring on a like-for-like substitution at fullback — Cody Baker was available on the bench — Head Coach Brian Schmetzer turned to the more attack-minded Rothrock, who repaid that faith with an insurance goal to seal all three points.

“It’s a tough one coming in like that,” said Rothrock. “I hope Alex is going to be OK, but it’s a lesson in staying ready.”

Rothrock has been training very well recently. Schmetzer noted he’s been the best player on the practice pitch with his attitude, work rate and energy. Results weren’t going the club’s way, and Schmetzer knew that Rothrock was sniffing for an opportunity to prove himself.

“He was going to be ready when the coach called his number,” said Schmetzer. “There was no hesitation on the bench…Paul did exactly what was needed in the game.”

In many ways, Rothrock is a quintessential example that one doesn’t always have to take the most traditional path to MLS. He spent a brief period in the Sounders Academy before playing collegiately at Notre Dame and then Georgetown. Toronto FC drafted him in the 2021 MLS SuperDraft, but he made just two appearances for the First Team and spent most of his minutes with TFCII.

In 2023, Rothrock opted to return home and signed with Tacoma Defiance, the Sounders’ MLS NEXT Pro affiliate. After impressing with Tacoma and scoring some vital goals for the Sounders in the U.S. Open Cup, Rothrock played his way into a First Team contract.

“[My training mentality] is something that I take a lot of pride in and has gotten me a long way,” said Rothrock. “I’m not the most talented guy, I’m not the fastest guy, but I consistently train really hard and bring a positive attitude, and over time that pays off.”

Saturday was particularly special for the Seattle native. Along with his family, many of his youth coaches were in attendance as part of the Sounders’ 50th Anniversary celebrations. The significance of the match wasn’t lost on him, either, as someone who attended the Sounders’ first MLS game in 2009 as a fan and idolized many of the players who have donned the Rave Green before him.

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“I’ve been trying to bring positive energy, positive vibes,” he said. “It’s been tough at points this year, and I feel like that’s been my role at times. Even if I’m not rostered or not getting in the game, that’s been important to bring. I feel valued from the staff and from the players for bringing that.”

Rothrock understands there’s still more work to do. He’s still searching for his first career MLS start, but he’s looked lively in his 191 minutes across nine matches this season and capped that display with his first goal at Lumen Field.

The opportunities will come thick and fast this summer. The Sounders are balancing a busy MLS slate along with the Leagues Cup and a quarterfinal berth in the U.S. Open Cup. Rothrock won’t always get on the score sheet like he did on Saturday night, but he certainly won’t leave anything on the pitch.

“I’m honored that the coaching staff trusted me in that moment and rewarded me for the last couple weeks of training,” said Rothrock. “It’s been trending in the right direction for me.”

Added Schmetzer: “Ever since Paul has been at this club has been a hardworking, honest, great guy in the locker room, smart…Is he the best player on our squad? No. But tonight he was the most important.”

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