Seattle Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan has never been one to back down from a challenge.
Playing different positions throughout the course of a season? No problem. High pressure games in the playoffs with a trip to MLS Cup on the line? Bring it on.
On Thursday, Roldan will face one of his toughest tasks in his career to date with the United States Men’s National Team – facing off against a revamped Jamaica side (4:30 p.m. PT; ESPN2, Univision, TUDN, ESPN+) in the first match of a three-game week for World Cup Qualifying.
“We have a deep enough squad to rotate guys, to get guys on the field without a drop-off in quality,” Roldan said during USMNT media availability this week. “That’s the most important thing for us. That’s the attitude that we have. We have to embrace the challenge. We have to embrace the travel conditions, the short rest, and get on with it. The important thing for us is to get results, and if we embrace the tough environments and accept that it’s going to be tough, we’ll be alright.”
Roldan enters the camp in a rich vein of form, scoring in four consecutive matches across all competitions for the Seattle Sounders.
Due to COVID-19, the qualification process for the 2022 World Cup has undergone significant changes. With lots of travel and condensed schedules, the new schedule is physically and mentally demanding.
The first match comes against a Jamaica side at Q2 Stadium in Austin, Texas that has added significant talent from top clubs in Europe.
“It will be a difficult game because they’re using their key guys that they were unable to use in the last cycle,” said Roldan. “We’re looking forward to it. That’s what World Cup Qualifying is all about and the competition that it brings.”
After a slow start to the last World Cup Qualifying window in September, Roldan noted that there has been added emphasis placed on the mentality of the group.
“We set the tone early in camp as players,” he said. “The message has been great from the coaching staff, and I think our guys are ready to compete against a strong side in Jamaica. We’re ready to rock. Our guys have prepared mentally and physically.”