Unlikely hero: Paul Rothrock sparks Seattle Sounders with first MLS goal

Paul Rothrock

Wait, who scored the game-winner for Seattle Sounders FC in Saturday’s 1-0 victory at nine-man Houston Dynamo FC?

Rave Green fans could hardly be blamed for asking that question, but they sure know the answer now.

Paul Rothrock, shortly after subbing on in the second half, sent home Alex Roldan’s cross in the 87th minute to grab all three points. The 24-year-old has been on a short-term loan from Seattle’s MLS NEXT Pro team, Tacoma Defiance, and now scored in three straight appearances within the last three weeks (including two US Open Cup games).

Back in the Pacific Northwest after spending time in Toronto FC’s organization, the Seattle native is cherishing every chance at the first-team level.

“If I could put one word on it, it would be joyful,” said Rothrock. “It's been really good to be back home and I feel great in my decision to come back home. I had a couple different options and different countries in the offseason, and I chose somewhere I felt like I would be valued and I knew that it had a good culture. I feel like it's starting to pay off.”

Rothrock, selected in the third round (No. 64 overall) of the 2021 MLS SuperDraft by Toronto, played college soccer at both Notre Dame and Georgetown. His senior season got canceled on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, then he turned pro and tried latching on with the Reds.

Even though things didn’t pan out during his first go, Rothrock is certainly turning heads – as did Tacoma defender ​​Cody Baker, who played the full 90 minutes at left back and impressed.

“These guys, they smell the opportunity,” head coach Brian Schmetzer said after the rain-delayed Matchday 12 game at Shell Energy Stadium.

As for sticking with the first team long-term, and not just getting these cameo appearances? Rothrock knows he can just put his best foot forward.

“That's out of my control,” said the Sounders academy alum. “I feel like all I can do is continue to put in good performances and that's a decision that's up to the club. All I can ask for the club is just to continue to get more opportunities, and they've been giving me that so far.”

In the meantime, Rothrock is cherishing each moment spent as yet another MLS NEXT Pro talent leaves his mark on the 2023 season.

“It's take two of a new MLS team and take two with Seattle,” said Rothrock. “So far, I've been really loving it.”