SEATTLE — There’s “in form,” and then there’s what Cristian Roldan has been in over the last four matches.
The Sounders midfielder has recorded two goals and two assists as well as drawn two penalty kicks in the past three weeks. Roldan drew a penalty that led to Clint Dempsey’s goal in the 61st minute, assisted Dempsey in the 80th and then iced the game in 83rd on a header in Seattle’s 3-1 win over Portland on Sunday evening at CenturyLink Field.
And now Roldan has twice as many points in the last four matches under interim head coach Brian Schmetzer than he had all season under former boss Sigi Schmid.
“Schmetzer does a good job with letting us know what we can do, and as long as we have cover he gives us a lot of leeway to do as we please,” Roldan said. “Schmetzer is a guy who wants to be super relaxed and creative offensively.”
Since moving into a 4-2-3-1 formation in late July, Roldan and fellow defensive midfielder Ozzie Alonso have had far more room to operate and get involved in the offense. The addition of Designated Player Nicolas Lodeiro, who draws a lot of attention from defenses, has given Roldan myriad opportunities to attack, and he’s making the most of them.
“[There has been] a lot more space for me and Ozzie for sure [since Lodeiro got here]," Roldan said, "[Dempsey] also provides that. … Now that Nico is here it’s two guys that [opponents] have to worry about."
Said Sounders forward Jordan Morris: “[Roldan is] going out there and playing really well and he’s getting rewarded for it. Drawing those penalties is great, he was in the right spot today with a good goal and he’s playing some great balls too.
"I think he’s playing like we know he can play. We know he’s a great player and now people are getting to see that.”
Opposing coaches are going to have to take notice too. Seattle can be a handful on offense as it is, with the likes of Dempsey, Morris and Lodeiro forcing defenses to cheat in their direction. The result has been a potent Sounders offense, which has scored nine goals in the last four games, including three matches against teams currently in playoff position.
The Sounders have only trailed for seven minutes since Schmetzer took the reins last month and have 10 points in their last four matches. The team had just 20 points from its first 20 matches of the season. The emergence of Roldan and the team’s current three-game winning streak is no coincidence.
“He is a kid that would do whatever it takes, would sacrifice whatever to help the team win,” Schmetzer said of Roldan. “I think his commitment to the team, his eagerness to win, all of those qualities that he has, that’s what you guys see out there. He’s a tremendous talent and we’re only hoping for bigger and better things from him.”
How much better can Roldan get? While Schmetzer insists he doesn’t measure success in stats, it would be naive not to acknowledge how Roldan’s fantastic few weeks have buoyed Seattle. He’s capitalizing on the extra space in midfield, and, at just 21 years old, is trying to earn his spot in the center of the Sounders’ lineup for the immediate future and beyond.
“I'm going to demand that [Roldan] go to the next level because I have confidence in him,” Schmetzer said. “I think he can go to the next level.”