Sounders strike first: Go inside the passion & drama of Seattle-Colorado

TUKWILA, WASH. – Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan are close friends – best friends, actually – and teammates, emerging young talents chasing an MLS Cup dream with the Seattle Sounders.


And if Roldan continues building on this breakthrough season, they might also become teammates on the United States national team, with whom Morris, a 22-year-old forward from Stanford, already has 12 appearances wearing the red, white and blue.


Roldan, a 21-year-old midfielder from the University of Washington, is still working toward his first call-up. But that seems closer now in his second professional season as he’s emerged as a regular starter with the Sounders. Now, he hopes Bruce Arena’s return as coach of the national team also could help open the door.


“I see this as a positive for the US national team, and for myself hopefully,” Roldan said. “I just want to continue to play well and hope I catch his eye and maybe I get called up. For now, obviously I need to focus on the Sounders and the playoffs. But if I continue to play well, I hope things will turn out in that way.”


Roldan was a starter and key contributor Tuesday when the Sounders opened the MLS Western Conference Championship Series with a 2-1 win against the visiting Colorado Rapids. The opening Seattle goal was set up by Roldan’s run and shot, which caromed off the post and into the path of Morris, who finished ably.


“[Cristian] had the most completed passes in the game,” Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer said. “And that was one of the areas that he had to improve on earlier. We knew that he was a competitive kid. He has all of the character traits that we love. Tactically, I think he’s gotten better as well. … But the last piece to that was just being a little cleaner and more consistent in his passing. And I think [Tuesday] night was a good example of him gaining ground there.”


The series is an opportunity for fans across the league to learn more about Roldan, who came into the league last season as the 16th overall selection in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft. As a rookie, he made 22 appearances and 11 starts. This season, he has emerged as a regular – 33 appearances and 28 starts – in the Seattle midfield alongside Osvaldo Alonso.


If that improvement isn’t common knowledge among the league’s casual fans, it certainly has been observed by Arena as longtime coach of the LA Galaxy.


“Players that do well in our league should get those opportunities,” Schmetzer said. “So then it’s just up to Bruce, if he sees something, if he sees what we see in Cristian. … I [see it], but it’s up to Bruce. He has to impress Bruce. He’s already got me: I’m one of his fans.”


Roldan is expected to be back in the 11 on Sunday when the series wraps up at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City (4 pm ET; ESPN. TSN2).


Meanwhile, the Sounders returned to training Friday after being given an off day on Thursday to celebrate the holiday.


“It’s Thanksgiving,” Schmetzer explained. “Time to be with family.”


After a short regeneration session on Wednesday, Roldan said he planned to spend the holiday with Morris, Seattle’s goals leader and the 2016 MLS Rookie of the Year.


“I would say we’re best friends,” Roldan said. “[This week] I was talking to my girlfriend’s parents, and I said, ‘This is my good friend, Jordan, on the team.’ And he was like, ‘Good friend? I’m your best friend.’”