Cristian Roldan might not be the type of player who grabs the headlines or receives constant praise from national media. But Seattle’s Swiss Army Knife has proven once again this season that he is one of the most valuable and influential players in the league.
Roldan is the type of player that the Sounders squad looks to for guidance and support leading up to the 2023 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.
“Cristian is definitely a guy people can look to when things are going tough,” said midfielder Josh Atencio. “He leads by example with his work rate and he knows how to win.”
Even in limited minutes this season – Roldan had two prolonged spells on the sidelines due to concussion protocol – he has cemented his status as a proven difference maker. Of the 16 regular season matches he’s played in this year, the California native has only been a part of one loss.
“Our stretch of bad games was when Cristian was missing and our stretch of good games was when Cristian was back,” said defender Alex Roldan. “He just brings that tenacity, he never quits and at the end of the day, his quality always shows.”
While Cristian Roldan might not rack up the box score stats – he has notched three goals and three assists in just over 1,200 league minutes – the underlying statistics reveal some of the intangibles he brings to the team. Defensively, Cristian Roldan’s clearances rank in the 89 percentile while his tackles won are in the 71 percentile. On offense, his shots-on-target percentage is in the 89th percentile, and his expected goals per shot is in the 95th, which demonstrates that when he gets opportunities to score, he often makes the most of them.
Cristian Roldan is also elite among MLS players in his position group at both retaining and recovering possession, both of which are core functions in Seattle’s tactical system.
Whether it be through his attacking minded approach or his willingness to track back on defense, Cristian Roldan has been instrumental in making the team a more cohesive collective, especially during the Sounders current nine-game unbeaten streak.
“He's a player that any team would be lucky to have,” said Atencio. “He's positionally and tactically a super smart player and he's technically great. So, if you add him to the mix with any 11, I think the team's going to be a lot more successful and it's shown this year.”
Cristian Roldan’s Sounders career has been nothing short of spectacular since his arrival to the club in 2015. At only 28 years old, the midfielder has won two MLS Cups and a Concacaf Champions League title.
His eight years of MLS and postseason experience will be especially vital in the coming weeks when the team faces off against FC Dallas in Round One of the MLS Cup Playoffs.
“Cristian’s played a ton of games [throughout his career] and so his leadership shows every single time on and off the pitch,” said Alex Roldan. “I can say that every single one of these players look to him as the glue guy.”
“He's just a guy that brings everyone together.”
If the Sounders hope to make waves in the postseason, they’ll need to rely on Cristian Roldan’s energy to ignite the crowd at Lumen Field and unify the team, Together As One.
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