Osvaldo Alonso

Seattle Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan eager to face former mentor Osvaldo Alonso for first time as opponents in MINvSEA

Ozzie Alonso Cristian Roldan 2019-05-02

When Seattle Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan was asked about his rescinded red card at training on Wednesday, his immediate reaction was to share his excitement about facing former teammate Osvaldo Alonso, who helped mold Roldan into a central midfield force. The Sounders take on Alonso’s Minnesota United on Saturday at new Allianz Field in St. Paul (5 p.m. PT; JOEtv, YouTube TV, 950 KJR AM, El Rey 1360 AM).

“Well, I’m happy that I’ll be able to compete against Ozzie,” Roldan said. “[He was] really a mentor of mine.”

After spending much of his high school and college career as a goalscoring No. 10, Roldan’s rookie season in 2015 saw him make 22 appearances in MLS, mostly on the wing. In training, however, Sounders Assistant Coach Gonzalo Pineda and team captain Alonso shared their wisdom and expertise with Roldan, viewing him as the heir apparent to Seattle’s central midfield.

“It was really interesting seeing Ozzie and the way he uses his body,” said Roldan. “I watched him quite a bit, obviously on the bench, and saw his habits in training. So much of his game has been brought into mine, and so has Gonzalo. I want to add those two guys together because, if I can add a little bit of both of their games, I’ll be all right.”

Seattle Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan eager to face former mentor Osvaldo Alonso for first time as opponents in MINvSEA -

Roldan, Alonso and Pineda training together during the 2015 season

In 2016, when Brian Schmetzer took the helm as Interim Head Coach, one of his first changes was to shift the Sounders into a 4-2-3-1, slotting Roldan and Alonso next to each other in the double pivot. That vote of confidence from Schmetzer, and the added responsibility it placed on Seattle’s No. 7, altered the trajectory of his career.

Alonso’s presence in midfield afforded Roldan the freedom to develop more attacking facets of his game. Although he’s played six fewer seasons in MLS than his mentor, the University of Washington product already has four more goals (15) and just eight fewer assists (17) than Alonso.

“His ability to dribble out of pressure is pretty tremendous,” added Roldan. “I still watch him and try to use that to my advantage and implement that into my game. If you can have that as a trait, instead of passing out of pressure and dribbling out of pressure, although a little risky, it can pay off big time.”

According to Schmetzer, the team’s familiarity with their former captain will be a double-edged sword when they head to Minnesota.

“From a coaching perspective, it is a little easier to prepare for him because we know what he does really well,” Schmetzer said of Alonso, who made over 300 career appearances in all competitions for Seattle under his tutelage. “So, that will help me. But I know the emotional nature of the player, and it’s going to be a big match for him, so that’s the other side of the coin.”

Since Roldan formally became Alonso’s protégé in summer 2016, the club has reached two MLS Cup finals, winning one, and has broken all sorts of regular-seasons records. From an individual perspective, it helped Roldan break into the U.S. men’s national team picture under three different head coaches.

“There was a point where we were competing for a spot, and then we started playing together, and it worked out for us,” recalled Roldan. “I think we jelled off each other extremely well because I was able to cover ground and Ozzie was able to stay put and really stabilize the midfield.”

On Saturday, Roldan will square off against the player who taught him the intricacies of being a successful central midfielder in MLS. That matchup, which will decide whether Seattle or Minnesota controls the tempo of the match, will likely determine the result.



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