2015 has been quite the eventful year for Sounders FC rookie Cristian Roldan.
After being drafted by Seattle with the 16th pick in the MLS SuperDraft, Roldan, a University of Washington product, went later than he expected. However, he fit right in with the Sounders culture from day one.
Now barely a month into his rookie season, the 19-year-old has played in four of the Sounders five MLS matches, starting two, and has drawn plaudits from across the league. His steady play and regular contributions to the club’s start has earned him a call-up to the USMNT U-20 squad that will play Qatar and Croatia later this month in Austria.
“I look forward to it,” said Roldan exclusively to SoundersFC.com. “I want to make the most of the opportunity. I think I had a rocky start, including the draft. I thought I was going to go a little bit higher, but that’s just the way it goes. I just hope to take advantage of this opportunity.”
Originally slated as a top five selection in January’s SuperDraft, Roldan began to fall further than many expected. Seeing the opportunity to acquire a player coveted by the technical staff, Sounders FC traded up to bring Roldan back to the familiar surroundings of Seattle, a place he had called home for the previous two years with UW.
Since joining the club, Roldan has been very pleased with his progress and the support he has been given from his veteran teammates.
“I think the older guys have been very good to me. Guys like Gonzo [Pineda] and Ozzie [Alonso] have definitely talked to me about making the most of my opportunities and taking advantage of every little bit of information they give me. Credit to the veteran guys and the coaching staff for having confidence in me.”
Roldan will join the U-20s following the Colorado match on Saturday until April 28, a span that will see him get some quality minutes with the squad. Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid is excited for his first-year player and what the opportunity could bring for him.
“He was in an under-20 camp, didn’t get called back again,” said Schmid of Roldan’s past experience with the U-20s. “So now he’s playing well for us so we made a call and now he’s been invited in again for a look with the under-20s and we’ll see what happens from there.”
The Pico Rivera native hopes that his upcoming time with the National Team will help further his game with the Rave Green.
“I just want to bring back international experience,” Roldan said of the opportunity. “Even though it’s youth, it’s still international experience. We’ll play two games. I want to be able to play internationally at some point. We have a ton of guys who have already played internationally, and I just hope to bring a little bit more of that.”
In the end, it comes down to confidence. Things didn’t go as Roldan would have hoped at the SuperDraft but since then, things have steadily improved. His regular selections with the first team have led to a chance with the U-20 squad and following time with the USMNT, Roldan has his eyes set on becoming an important contributor to the Sounders in 2015.
“I have a lot of confidence,” Roldan said of his current state of mind. “I think after the LA game, seeing my family and friends there, and being able to play 81 minutes — that definitely helped me. I hope to continue to grow and use that confidence to become a better player.”
Seattle’s match with the Colorado Rapids will kickoff at 6:00 p.m. PT on JOEtv and KIRO Radio 97.3 FM, with additional live coverage on Twitter with LIVESounders.