Last week, Cristian Roldan considered himself lucky. Do it again and you have to call it skill.
For the second time in as many weeks, Roldan sent a rocket shot on goal and watched it land safely in the net. Saturday’s attempt from 26 yards out in the fifth minute was enough for his Sounders to collect a 1-0 win and three points against Houston.
The result is the Sounders’ first victory since April 13, this one in front of 39,232 at CenturyLink Field.
“It gives me a lot of confidence, a lot of leeway, especially within my teammates,” Roldan said of shooting from distance. “My teammates think that I can score from outside the box all the time now.”
Roldan, a defensive midfielder, had a similar score against Minnesota last week in the 42nd minute.
“I closed my eyes and shot it as hard as I could,” he told media after the match ended in a draw.
That play was off a poorly cleared ball. Against Houston, the attempt was intentional.
Roldan chested a volley down to his right foot and fired the ball to the near post. Dynamo keeper Joe Willis dived for the save but reacted too late. It was Roldan’s third goal of the season.
“Lucky? Nah,” Sounders defensive midfielder Jordy Delem said. “Back to back is not luck. He’s working very hard in training, so it’s a very good thing for him tonight.”
Delem started for the second week alongside Roldan because of an injury to Gustav Svensson. The pair worked to limit a potent Houston team to one shot on target and its first shutout of the season.
Possession was even between the teams in the game. The Sounders did manage more on-target shots. After Roldan’s strike, forward Nico Lodeiro hit the sidebar in the 43rd minute and forward Jordan Morris missed in the 45th minute.
“It wasn’t just the back four, but Jordy Delem sliding in a couple times with some blocks, there was some good defending,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said. “In the second half when we made some adjustments defensively, I think some of those worked. It’s a testament to a commitment to defend as a team.”
Houston, which was off to its best start in franchise history, is winless in Seattle. The Sounders (6-1-4) inched ahead of the Dynamo in the MLS Western Conference standings with the win. Houston (6-2-1) has lost twice in its past five matches.
The match wasn’t without a loss for the Sounders. Left winger Victor Rodriguez left in the 15th minute with a left hamstring strain. He missed a home match against Los Angeles FC in April because of a concussion.
Sounders striker Raul Ruidiaz returned to the starting lineup for the first time since a draw at Vancouver on March 30. The Peruvian star was hampered with a heel injury, often using a walking boot.
Ruidiaz appeared unhappy when substituted out of the match in the 73rd minute. He had two good shot attempts but nothing memorable. He returned to training April 16 and played his first minutes in a draw at Minnesota last week. He entered in the 85th minute to close out the road match.
“He hadn’t seen the ball all game and he had that chance and he misses,” Schmetzer said of Ruidiaz’s frustration. “Guys get frustrated when they miss shots. Guys are competitive and I love it. I love it when they show emotion on their sleeve.”
Ruidiaz was a big reason the Sounders jumped out to their best start in the franchise’s 10-year history. He scored a goal in each of the opening three matches. The Sounders went unbeaten through five games, losing their first 4-1 at Los Angeles FC.
Saturday was the first of three games in eight days for the Sounders. The club hosts Orlando City SC on Wednesday at CenturyLink Field.
“I said to the squad before the game today that we’ve been working our butts off for one point at a time,” Sounders keeper Stefan Frei said of Seattle’s past three matches ending in draws. “It’s time to get a little bit more greedy and put in the same effort to get three points, especially at home.”
Behind Roldan’s score, the Sounders did on Saturday.