Alex Roldan aims to learn from brother Cristian, but forge own identity with Seattle Sounders

Seattle Sounders rookie Alex Roldan had his first professional training session on Monday, one of the few he’ll have without his older brother by his side.

While Cristian is in Los Angeles with the United States national team, Alex suited up in his own “Roldan” Sounders gear. He knows some of his new teammates already — he spent several offseasons at Seattle University training with the Sounders, and he lives with Cristian — and met the others, all of whom made him feel right at home.

“I have an easier transition than most people because I have a brother on the team, but the overall welcoming was nice and I’m excited to get going,” he said.

Alex, who the Sounders selected in the first round of the 2018 MLS SuperDraft and is still unsigned, wants it to be known that he is not his brother. While their styles of play have their similarities, from their intense engine and predilection to get into tackles, there are some contrasts between the two, including one in particular at which Alex poked a little fun.

“I feel like I’m a better passer,” he said with a smile.

Less than two years apart, Alex and Cristian played together on club team Independiente growing up in Pico Rivera, Calif. The two were always competitive. When they were younger, they’d play basketball in their driveway, and one time, while with a broken arm and a cast, Cristian still beat Alex one-on-one.

“He’s so competitive, so I’m never going to get it easy from him,” Alex said of Cristian. “But I have him to lean on when I need help or advice. He’s a humble guy, and I’ve learned so much from him already. I hope to learn more from him in the pros.”

Following in his brother’s footsteps will not be easy, especially given the success and rapid rise Cristian has shown in his three years in the league. He was a spot starter in his rookie season before transitioning into a full-time defensive midfield role in 2016 in Head Coach Brian Schmetzer’s 4-2-3-1 formation. He broke out this past season, scoring a career-high six goals, earning his first U.S. cap and leading Major League Soccer in tackles and duels won.

“[Alex] is a hardworking player,” said Sounders VP of Soccer & Sporting Director Chris Henderson. “He has a lot of similarities with his brother, but he also is his own player. I’d say to him, ‘Your older brother was MVP of our team last year, you have a great role model there. Just come in every day and do what Cristian did. Prove yourself, work hard and fight for your position.’”

Added Alex: “There’s a lot of pressure. [Cristian] has made a stamp in the league. There’s some big shoes to fill, but I’m happy to get going and hopefully I can replicate what he’s been doing the last couple years.”