Cristian Roldan USA vs. Venezuela 2019-06-10
USA Today Sports

Seattle Sounders forward Jordan Morris, midfielder Cristian Roldan ready for Gold Cup run with U.S. men's national team

While the Seattle Sounders have a two-week break until their next match against the Vancouver Whitecaps on June 29 (7 p.m. PT; JOEtv, YouTube TV, 950 KJR AM, El Rey 1360 AM | TICKETS), two of the club’s standout players, forward Jordan Morris and midfielder Cristian Roldan, are preparing to defend the United States men’s national team’s Gold Cup title.

Ahead of the team’s Gold Cup group stage opener against Guyana on Tuesday (7 p.m. PT; FS1), the pair has been fine-tuning Head Coach Gregg Berhalter’s system at training camp in Minnesota.

For Morris, his reintegration into the USMNT pool for the Gold Cup has been cathartic after all the work he put in while rehabbing from the season-ending knee injury he suffered in February 2018.

“It’s such an honor for me to be back after a long year out last year,” said Morris. “My whole goal when I had those tough days was to be back out here, representing this country. It’s a super special honor.”

Roldan, who started in both the Jamaica and Venezuela friendlies prior to the Gold Cup, believes the extended training stint in Minnesota has helped reinforce the team’s principles of play. With several camps under Berhalter’s tutelage under his belt, the Sounders midfielder has a deeper understanding of his role in the former Columbus Crew coach’s 3-2-2-3 possession scheme.

“I feel very comfortable playing in his system,” said Roldan. “I feel confident in how we play, how we want to play. If [Berhalter] puts his trust in me and I play more regularly, I’ll keep improving as a player and improve [my understanding] of the system, and playing with the other players to maintain that relationship will allow us to improve. I feel proud and confident and ready for the Gold Cup.”

When Morris helped guide the United States to the 2017 Gold Cup title — the Sounders Homegrown scored the match-winning goal in the final against Jamaica — most of his contributions came as a traditional No. 9. That slot will likely be occupied by Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore in the coming weeks.

After missing the entire 2018 campaign, Morris has stormed back this year, remolding his style of play from a channel-running striker into a goal-dangerous winger. Altidore, who likes to combine and create chances for teammates, will occupy the center backs, freeing Morris to employ his blistering pace in transition.

“For me, I like playing with a guy like Jozy, someone who can hold the ball up so well and give you space to run in behind,” said Morris. “He draws a lot of attention. As a player who likes to get in behind, he takes up a lot of people’s attention so you can fill that space that he opens.”

It goes without saying, but Morris is looking forward to playing alongside Roldan as well.

“Cristian on the ball is a very good player,” Morris added. “He can find you making those runs or create his own space and opportunities. Two really good players, and obviously fun for us to play with each other.”

After Guyana in the opener, the USMNT will take on Sounders defender Joevin Jones and Trinidad & Tobago (June 22) followed by Sounders defender Román Torres and Panama (June 26).