2015 MLS SuperDraft first-round selection Cristian Roldan still lives with some of his former University of Washington teammates. On a regular morning, they wake up and go to class while Roldan drives to Tukwila for work.
“My situation is basically the same,” he said. “I just play for the best team in this city now.”
Roldan now plays for a Sounders FC squad that won two major trophies in 2014, one that features a bevy of MLS All-Stars. Yet as a rookie who entered the pros after less than two years at UW, Roldan has made an appearance in both of the club’s first two matches this season.
Although Roldan and the Rave Green lost to San Jose last weekend, the 19-year-old’s performance was an encouraging sign to Assistant Coach Brian Schmetzer.
“[He was] very, very good. He is a sturdy guy, he can shield the ball, he turns quick and he can play and move,” Schmetzer said after the match. “Some of the balls he put in were decent crosses, so I was very pleased with him, very happy. He’s got a bright future.”
Roldan was subbed into Saturday night’s contest with 10 minutes to go and his team trailing 3-1. He played on the right wing, sending in three crosses and testing San Jose’s goalkeeper with an on-target shot from the top of the box. The 5-foot-8 midfielder helped Seattle create numerous chances and add a second goal in the closing minutes.
Six days earlier, Roldan subbed in during stoppage time of the club’s 3-0 win over New England. Taking the pitch for the first time in front of nearly 40,000 fans was a special moment, one he won’t soon forget.
“[It’s] definitely a confidence boost,” Roldan said. “It encourages me to play even better. Hopefully I can show up at every practice with the right mentality because there is a chance that I could go in.”
To Roldan, that mindset is the main difference between the college game and MLS. It’s also what the rookie says he needs to improve the most if he wants to earn even more playing time.
“Your mind has to be set very quickly. Obviously it’s faster, and obviously it’s more physical, but I think the mindset is the hardest part,” he said. “You have to be alert. You have to be aware of everything around you at any given moment because you could get the ball at any moment.”
Though he admittedly has room to improve, Roldan has shown the Sounders FC technical staff that he is capable of contributing in his first season. His play versus the Earthquakes is an example of why Roldan was originally projected to be a top-five draft pick.
Sounders FC ended up taking him with the 16th overall pick at the SuperDraft in Philadelphia after trading up in a move with Real Salt Lake. Roldan then boarded a plane back to the Emerald City, the place that has become a “second home” for the California native.
“I had a rough couple weeks when I first got [to the club], and progressively I’ve gotten better with time,” he said. “Hopefully I can continue to show up in these games.”