COUNTRY: United States
CLUB: Seattle Sounders FC
YEARS PRO: 3
The 22-year-old Cristian Roldan has gone from good contributor for the Seattle Sounders in his second season to a vital cog for his team this year. The midfielder, highly touted out of high school and the University of Washington, has flourished in a box-to-box role for Seattle, allowing the team to weather Ozzie Alonso's injury absences with little worry. In addition, Roldan has showcased his attacking instincts to a greater extent than ever in 2017, notching six goals and three assists.
In addition to Roldan's exploits for his club, the midfielder also made his debut for the US national team this year, starting in the group stage against Martinique during the USMNT's Gold Cup title-winning run. The call-up ensures Roldan will be cap-tied to the Americans, as he was previously also eligible for Guatemala and El Salvador through his parents. While still young, Roldan's evolution as a professional in three seasons shows he could also become a vital cog in the US midfield in the coming years.
What the technical staffers say:
"I think that overall, you can see that the guy is committed. Physically, he can battle with the best. But I think he has a good knowledge of the game. He does well. He connects well. He can take some pressure, too. I think the amount of minutes that he’s playing can only help him."
"He’s someone that I don’t think gets enough accolades from what he’s done, because he’s got some bigger-name players on the team with him. I think they’re starting to get there. I think he’s fantastic."
"I think the biggest thing is, he wants to consistently be in the national team. We’re looking at a situation – how he’s going to consistently be in the national team is going to be from production, from us scoring goals. I think that’s from playing the position that he plays – for me, if this were me speaking to him, how does he affect the team around him? It’s not necessarily about his passing percentage or his technical ability. What impact does he make with the players around him, and how can he make individual players better. And if he can do that, then all of a sudden, now he’s someone that has to be in the team."
"Believe it or not, Cristian’s best quality is his humility. What drives Cristian to be as good as he is and work as hard as he does is something that not a lot of players possess. His technical ability, quite frankly, can improve. However, his athletic ability quite often makes up for a stubborn first touch. Cristian is the type of player that will be around our league for years and years and years and years – and quite possibly, if his technical ability catches up to his athletic ability, could be a player who attracts attention from quite a few leagues around the world."
"Sometimes he relies on his athleticism, when the truth is he’s a good enough soccer player to slow the game down and play the game a little more efficiently. Connectivity on distribution is something that I think he is better than he shows in terms of consistency week to week."
"His athleticism is an unbelievable asset. At the same time, I think his athleticism has limited his reason to improve technically, and we are seeing that to a certain degree. But he is on the verge, and capable of improving technically. If that happens, then he’s the complete package."
"Personally, for me, I’m kind of torn on Roldan. I’m not as high on him as other people. I think he’s a steady, consistent midfielder. I just don’t know that there’s any one thing he does that makes him special. I would say he’s a ‘Steady Eddie.’ I think he’s consistent on both sides of the ball and he’s responsible. Maybe it’s unfair to say he isn’t special. Maybe there’s something unique to being responsible and being able to do your job. I just don’t know that there aren’t also a number of guys in the league who aren’t able to do what he does."
"He’s fortunate that he plays in a midfield with arguably the most dynamic attacking midfielder in the league in Lodeiro and arguably the league’s best defensive midfielder in Alonso. So I think those guys do a lot of the heavy lifting on both sides of the ball. I’d be curious to see him in a team where he didn’t have that. Last year, when Lodeiro wasn’t there yet and Alonso was injured, and he did have a lot on his shoulders, there were times when Seattle looked overmatched."