SEATTLE – Cristian Roldan hasn’t made a name as any sort of volume goalscorer for the Seattle Sounders, but he came through again Saturday in a Cascadia Cup derby against the Portland Timbers at CenturyLink Field.
Roldan was on the receiving end of Chad Marshall’s flicked header, following Nicolas Lodeiro’s corner kick. Roldan’s second header sent the ball in past Timbers goalkeeper Jake Gleeson in the fourth minute, and would hold as the game’s only goal in Seattle’s 1-0 victory.
“We practiced that play in particular quite a bit [this week] and it was something we felt we had an advantage at,” Roldan said. “Chad is a monster in the air, a competitor and will do anything for the team. He put his body on the line and I was just able to follow what the coaches wanted me to do.”
It was Roldan’s first goal of the season and only the fifth of his career. Yet he has now found the net in consecutive home derbies against the Timbers, a feat he insisted was a coincidence.
“Right place, right time,” Roldan said of his most recent goal. “Great header by Chad, I think it may have been going in if I wasn’t there, I just redirected it.
It was indeed a goal straight from the training ground, something that Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer also noted, praising the trio’s execution.
“That set piece, the delivery by Nico, the flicked on header [by Marshall], Cristian doing what he was supposed to do, earned them that goal,” Schmetzer said. “We don’t usually think of set pieces as beautiful but that was an important set piece for us.”
Saturday’s goal was the latest chapter in Roldan’s impressive development since he joined the Sounders as a first-round MLS SuperDraft pick in 2015 from the University of Washington just up the road.
A defensive midfielder by trade, his all-around play of late has vaulted him into the discussion for a US national team call-up.
In particular, Schmetzer said, Roldan’s defensive physicality has the edge of a veteran, perhaps owing to the influence of playing beside franchise legend Osvaldo Alonso.
“He’s playing next to one of the greatest defensive holding midfielders in our league history,” Schmetzer said. “I’m sure he’s taken a few cues from Ozzie over the years and as Cristian develops that’s just another part of his learning curve. He’s always searching to find different ways to impact the game. And sometimes sending messages isn’t the worst thing in the world, because he knows he’s going to have play against them again fairly soon.”