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What makes Cristian Roldan such a special midfielder? | Who's the Best?

If you’ve followed Cristian Roldan’s performances in 2017, it’s clear that the 22-year-old Seattle Sounder is emerging as one of the premier midfielders in MLS.

Playing primarily alongside Osvaldo Alonso in central midfield, Roldan’s box-to-box role finds him making plays all over the field. Currently ranked 26th in the Audi Player Index Award rankings, Roldan tallied a game-high 843 points in May’s Cascadia Derby match against the Portland Timbers.

Part of Roldan’s brilliance rests in his distribution. Compared to other midfielders, Roldan averages more successful passes in the opposition half and the final third than the MLS average. He also bests the league average for assists, key passes and even crosses—a remarkable stat, considering he plays as a central midfielder.

In the Portland match, Roldan racked up 60 completed passes, including 35 in Portland’s half of the field. Each of those passes is worth 5 Audi Index points, giving him a total of 175 points for completed passes in the opposition half.

The numbers show that Roldan’s also doing it on the defensive side of the ball. He currently generates 187.6 defensive points per match, the third-best mark for a midfielders – more than heralded defensive midfielders such as Dax McCarty, Will Johnson and his teammate Alonso.

In his third professional season, the former University of Washington player has cemented himself into Brian Schmetzer’s lineup, playing every minute in 2017. He’s also been willing to fill in at right back, including a May 13 start against the Chicago Fire.

Roldan’s next chance to impress comes against New York City FC (1 pm ET; ESPN and ESPN Deportes in US | MLS LIVE in Canada), one of the top teams in the East.

Despite only being in sixth place in the Western Conference, the Sounders have dominated the Audi Index Award rankings -- Osvaldo Alonso (3), Nicolas Lodeiro (7) and Clint Dempsey (10) all find themselves in the Top 10.

We’ll see if Seattle can turn these rankings into points on Saturday in a tough road trip against NYCFC, which boasts two Audi Index stars of its own – David Villa (No. 1) and Maxime Chanot (No. 4).

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