Cristian Roldan vs. Alex Gersbach
Still just 27, Roldan is entering his ninth professional season in Seattle as one of the bona fide leaders of this veteran-laden group. He is coming off a year in which his play helped the Sounders win Concacaf Champions League and earned a selection to the United States’ roster at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. A nominal right winger (but more of a wide central midfielder in practice), Roldan will take on new Rapids acquisition Gersbach. The 25-year-old Australian left back joins Colorado from French Ligue 2 side Grenoble.
João Paulo vs. Connor Ronan
After returning to competitive action as a substitute in the Sounders’ FIFA Club World Cup match against Egypt’s Al Ahly a few weeks ago, João Paulo started and went 79 minutes in Seattle’s final preseason friendly against Louisville City on Feb. 18. The Brazilian central midfielder was a 2021 MLS MVP finalist and helped lead the Sounders to the CCL title before injuring his knee in the final and missing the remainder of last season. JP does everything well on both sides of the ball, and his return will hopefully boss the midfield and influence the match in ways the Sounders dearly missed last year. He’ll go up against another first-year Rapids acquisition in 24-year-old English midfielder Ronan, who made several loan stints around Europe while on the books at EPL side Wolves.
* Jackson Ragen vs. Diego Rubio*
Ragen has played alongside fellow center back Yeimar throughout preseason and will look to build upon his promising rookie campaign last year. The 24-year-old Michigan product played almost 1,400 minutes across 23 appearances in 2022 and will aim to surpass those numbers this season. Gyasi Zardes left Colorado this offseason, but Ragen will still have a tough first task in slowing down Rubio, who tied for ninth in MLS in goals last year with 16 and chipped in seven assists. The Sounders have won 15 out of 18 all-time MLS home matches against the Rapids, and how well Seattle can keep it clean defensively will go a long way in extending that dominance.
Home Opener Tickets
Come watch Sounders FC in our 2023 home opener as we face the Colorado Rapids at Lumen Field on Sunday, February 26!