The past 18 months have been a bit of a whirlwind for Seattle Sounders defender Alex Roldan.
Starting the 2020 MLS Regular Season as a preseason trialist, Roldan finished the campaign as the starting right back as the Sounders stormed through the playoffs en route to a fourth MLS Cup berth in five years.
Roldan, 24, built on that impressive foundation coming into this season. Playing in a new position as a wingback in Seattle’s new 3-5-2, the Seattle University alum has gone from strength to strength this year. At the halfway point of the season, Roldan is second on the team in assists (three), second in interceptions (28) and he even bagged his first MLS goal in a 1-1 draw with the Colorado Rapids.
This past month, Roldan added to his personal accolades as he was named to the 2021 MLS All-Star Game and made his international debut with El Salvador in the Concacaf Gold Cup, where he made four appearances as La Select advanced to the quarterfinal stage.
“I thought it was a great experience," Roldan told media upon his return to Seattle. "The international level is a lot higher. It really exposes me to some quality players – playing against Mexico, Qatar was a great team with quality players – so, overall, it helps you out as a player.”
Born to Salvadoran mother and Guatemalan father, Roldan was eligible to represent three countries at the national team level. Part of the reason he selected El Salvador was the ambitious nature of the project spearheaded by former United States Men’s National Team player and coach Hugo Perez.
“Every country has their highs and lows,” added Roldan. “Obviously, this country is coming back from some low times in terms of competitive play. But I think that transition is coming into effect with Hugo and the players coming in.
“We have a great group of guys that are talented, working on things such as chemistry and our ability to play together will ultimately identify how big our play is, and how much competition we can have. I think Hugo is doing a really good job of creating this long-term project."
Roldan’s involvement in that project got off to a flying start when he scored a beautiful goal as a substitute in the first match of the Gold Cup.
“Every kid dreams of coming in and scoring in their first game,” he said. “It being at the international level was just so much more important as well. I finally got one up on Cristian [laughs], so that’s always a plus.”
While the soccer opportunity was enticing on its own, the emotional ties to represent his mother’s country were equally important.
Outside of a Concacaf Champions League match against Santa Tecla in his rookie season, it’s been about a decade since Roldan has been back to El Salvador. It was a surreal experience for all his relatives to see him perform at such a high level for La Selecta.
“She’s extremely proud, super happy that I’m representing her country,” Roldan said of his mom. “A lot of family from back home are sending her messages about how proud they are for her and our family. I’m just happy that she was able to be there to experience it as well because it’s not just my career and me playing for an international team. This is her way of experiencing it through me. It was a memory I won’t forget for the rest of my life. Hoping to continue to make my parents proud.”