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After turning down Generation Adidas contract, Roldan believes he is now ready for MLS

ChristianRoldanTimbersFCU231-MLSHomegrownGame (USATodaySports)


PORTLAND, Ore.- After his freshman season at the University of Washington, Cristian Roldan was offered a Generation Adidas contract by MLS and a chance to turn pro immediately. But Monday’s MLS Homegrown game gave Roldan a chance to see what he could have been facing on a regular basis.

The former Gatorade National High School Player of the Year suited up for the Portland Timbers Under-23 team in their 0-0 draw against the MLS Homegrown squad. And despite having only played a handful of PDL matches for the Washington Crossfire, Roldan now believes he is ready to play on the same level as his Monday opponents.

“The competition was great. I do believe that I can now play on that side,” Roldan said. “I am confident enough. I think last year I wasn’t ready.”

A native of Pico Rivera, Calif., Roldan has been in the Pacific Northwest for more than a year since playing for the Crossfire’s PDL team in 2013 and 2014 while also starring for the Washington Huskies. Roldan was a star for the Huskies as he shared the team lead in goals with six on his way to being named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year.

Roldan said more than anything else, his college coaches deserve the credit for getting him ready to compete with professionals.

“Being under Jamie Clark, he has prepared me enough. He has made me a better player. I appreciate what he does,” Roldan said. “Jeff Rowland and (former Washington and current Real Salt Lake assistant coach) Craig Waibel also played a big part and Rich Reese played a big part in the player I am today.”

While Roldan could have already been in MLS, he continues to try to mirror the young stars of the league including one of his opponents on Monday.

“Everyone tries to emulate someone at some point. I think Harrison Shipp is a good example to MLS, to Homegrowns, to young players,” Roldan said. “He’s a great competitor, confident on the ball, never loses it, he’s just a role model to us young guys.”

Roldan has been able to work with members of both the Sounders and Timbers organizations while in the offseason from his college team. The midfielder did admit that is was a “weird feeling” to wear a Timbers kit due to his current home in Seattle.  And while he says he doesn’t have a favorite MLS side, he said both clubs, along with the LA Galaxy, play a style of soccer that would mesh well with his skills.

“Credit to the Sounders and Portland who have brought me in and have given me the necessary tools to play faster here at the professional level,” Roldan said. “I give credit to them and hopefully I can be in MLS one day.”


  1. I think the idea that the soccer academies in Europe educate their players more than NCAA football players to be naive, but I have not data. The major reason is the players all think they will be major stars, so why study.

    IMHO, the college sport to look at is baseball. Most of the cream is skimmed at 18, but sufficient talent remains that the best college talent is still very good.

    • In Soccernomics they address that issue anecdotally. In England, at least, the education that went alongside academy stuff was characterized as pathetic.

  2. I think what would be great would be if the chipotle homegrown game would be changed to best homegrowns vs best college players. That would be a fun (and endlessly controversial) matchup

  3. This kid made a choice that was right for him. He wasn’t ready. Now he is, thanks in part to college soccer. What if he had gone pro before he was ready and burned out? We would have lost a player – this stuff cuts both ways.

    We may be moving toward the best possible system – one that includes both the fast track professional approach and one that includes college. Both will produce players and the existence of both will give kids something they don’t have in many other systems: choice.

  4. College soccer will always have its place in the pyramid of development in this country. This country is far too big; far too widespread and kids will go unnoticed and/or be late bloomers. Gems will continue to be found playing collegiately. However, with that said, expanding academies and having reserve teams in USL Pro is going to do nothing but accelerate that top level talent. It’s going to provide an outlet in a more structured and professional environment for that talent in the 17-21 yr. old range. The sky really is the limit in this country once we start developing ready-made talent for the professional game.

  5. Once we have reserve teams in US Pro, hopefully we can continue to move away from having our best players waste time in college soccer. The infrastructure for the 18-21 age group needs to be built up and hopefully reserve teams can start that process.

    • Listen, college soccer is never going away. What makes our country different (which is good and bad) is that scholar-athletes have a fall-back after their playing careers…. In England (for exampled), kids are brought up in the academies and maybe 1% of them make the full team. The rest? Well, they are 18-21, uneducated and without purpose. Give the system some credit. It’s not a “waste” for all. Maybe, just for your purposes.

      • College soccer may well go away if they refuse to adapt, the season needs to go for more than 3-4 months. Otherwise you will increasingly see kids who are serious about the sport stay in academies or try it at the professional level rather than play college ball.

      • Remember, it doesn’t serve a pro soccer purpose, so why would it “go away” if it doesn’t adapt? There will still be players willing to come on scholarship or just play for the thrill of it.

        Colleges may not be happy they don’t get the top prospects, but it doesn’t really change what they are doing. As long as there is a budget and interest, college soccer will continue.

        And the US needs college soccer for a few years more until every player has a nearby lower level pro team. Having a place where a player can develop differently won’t really hurt US soccer as a whole.

      • College sports are not the problem!!! College has performed the role of developer because no one else did it. Is college basketball bad for the NBA, college football bad for the NFL, college gymnastics bad for the US national team of gymnastics??? No, in each case college serves a role, lack of development or slow development is not because of college, it is because nothing else was in place. College will continue to offer opportunities for those who aren’t good enough for the other pipelines.

      • My suspicion is that we’re headed toward a hybrid development system, not unlike hockey, where our top league and national team draw from both players developed in college and players who developed in lower leagues (or both). Our national hockey team is certainly competitive in international play, so if we created (or tripped into) an analogous system in soccer, I think we could have both a competitive national team and a vibrant college soccer scene.

        The concerns about the shortness of the college season and restrictions on training are valid, but if our youth talent pool continues to expand, having both lower-level pro teams and colleges around as alternatives to each other might actually be useful.

      • If you’re 18 and are serious about making soccer your career, you shouldn’t be training for that career by playing a few games a year in the fall against kids who are going to go on and become dentists and lawyers etc. You should be training in a professional environment to obtain the skills you’ll need for your career.

        If kids don’t make it they can always go to college later, like millions of other do. It’s ludicrous to state that kids who don’t make the first team after playing in a academy are “uneducated and without purpose.”

      • I don’t disagree that kids that are serious about making soccer a career are best served elsewhere than college. What I am saying is that it is not going away.

        Maybe the “without purpose” portion of my comment is a bit overbroad, but the crux is that period of time is crucial to either professional or athletic development. I think we can agree on that one..

      • Of course it’s not going away but it should be a place for college students to play soccer, not for serious soccer players to learn their craft. Just like our best tennis players don’t play college tennis – they turn pro, play against other pros etc.

        Plus you can always go back to school if things don’t work out.

      • And just like our best football, basketball, and baseball players. I wonder if there are slowleftarm equivalents on European basketball forums saying “we really need to have our kids play sports at college, that’s how the Americans do it.”

    • The days of the college game being the main feeder are numbered… I am pretty darn happy we have MLS development and key, that there may be a trend to full blown, reserve squads such as Galaxy 2. Seems other teams are looking in this direction? Going to be huge as this goes along I think, but it will take time- is a generational thing. That said, having college available as an alternate avenue can only be seen as a good thing. Players and coaches sometimes (even refs) develop at a different pace or slip through the cracks and the more outlets there are for them to express their talent and for fans to be exposed to the game, the better for US Soccer. More soccer being played and watched is always a good thing as I see it.

    • Very few college athletes get a real education. They are used essentially as slave labor. Indeed, not only college soccer but ALL NCAA sports days may be numbered. Please look at what Northwestern athletes are doing. Also, look at the quality of education many European football academies provide their players. These players have a higher quality of education than most NCAA athletes who should not be in universities in the first place

      • This is true for sports like football and basketball, but it will likely never be a problem for soccer, even in top D1 schools. Most soccer programs struggle to break even, and they just don’t have the clout to pull big favors with the AD and president. Most are being subsidized by football or basketball revenue.

        The day colleges exploit it’s soccer players is the day there is money to be made in it. Not coincidentally, it will also be the day the USMNT challenges for a World Cup.

      • This mirrors my thoughts. Not all athletes should be getting a college education. Players in Europe are able to get education (college or technical) outside of practices and many lower level players are able to get jobs through connections they make with sponsors.

      • I see what you’re getting at, but let me fix that for you: Very few [major] college athletes [in money-making sports] get a real education.

        While the NCAA is indisputably exploiting its “student-athletes” and many of the top players in major sports programs have limited academic demands placed on them, that’s really only talking about a few thousand players at most. When you consider all the kids playing lesser sports at big schools and any sport at any of the smaller schools, we’re talking about hundreds of thousands of athletes who are getting an education while playing the sport they love and entertaining others. I’m sure a baseball player at Swarthmore, or a tennis player at Rice, or a rugby player at Michigan are all getting fine educations.

        I see your point, and agree with the sentiment, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

      • I agree, putting a college soccer player in the same category as say… an SEC based football player is inaccurate.

      • Nate, you have no idea what you are talking about.

        There are hundreds of thousands of kids that are student athletes, and almost all of them do better in school than an average student.

        Soccer is most like an Olympic sport and like almost all Olympic sports, the college student athlete experience is huge.

      • Echoing what others have said, that is true for big time mens basketball and mens football players, but not other athletes. I went to Maryland, big time sports school and I had friends playing sports and they went to the same classes I did and had the same academic education as I did.

      • bakunin, you are dead wrong for sports outside of football/basketball.

        There are no shortcuts for athletes that do not bring huge income into the school.

        And, I am speaking from personal experience, not just spouting crap, like you.

    • SlowLeftArm,

      You ever go to a college soccer game ? I don’t know why you think they are wasting their time. Washington is playing in very competitive games, rather than meaningless individual player showcase games called reserve games.

      I get that there isn’t as much time spent training, but these guys find places to get coached. Jamie Clark did a fantastic job in bringing guys along. This guy included.

      Let’s face it, as a parent, as a kid, you are choosing the college route first choice over choosing a “career” that may fail at any point and pays no money. It is not going away and I will take it a step further, it will get to be a bigger part of US soccer development.

      • I’ve certainly gone to plenty of soccer games. And I have no problem with college soccer but it’s a waste of time for best players.

        Do you really think college soccer, playing a handful of low level games in the fall only, is the way to prepare elite 18-21 year olds to play professionally? It’s a complete waste of time for elite players. They need to be playing professionally and competing against other elite players. College soccer is fine and may result in the occasional late bloomer coming into MLS but it’s no way to develop our best players.

    • Highly skilled CM/CAM with tremendous upside. Really wish he would have left for that Generation Adidas contract.

    • After reading the very well stated assortment of opinions above, I can say that it’s good to have this sort of discussion and I’m happy to see it is taking place. My own view is that it is actually immaterial … College soccer here is (and has always been) a catch-all, comprised in heavy majority of players who are overtly aware that they are on the margins of an ever-dwindling peer group that might carve a professional career playing the game. It has never been a secret that an American college is not among the places that an undiscovered 18+ player elite talent is likely to be “found” randomly (yes it happens sometimes). Certainly, the NCAA will turn out 10-20 pros per year, but it’s a crapshoot that is hardly college soccer’s reason for being, and even these guys get to crawl in through the back door. Reality is– If you’re at a US college playing soccer, it’s because of the backup plan of a 4 year degree, with the upside of prolonging a soccer dream.

      For the most part, Americans (and foreign nationals) play soccer at our universities because they want to. And for some, because it lowers the bills. Maybe they’ll dabble in it in the 20s, they way the rest of us dabble in our flights of fancy and youthful interests because we want to and there is no reason not to.

      And here is the good news… so what? What other country has this functionality in their structure? If we get a solitary USMNT player per cycle from the college ranks, is that not a differentiating “win”? If that player were in most any other country, he would’ve washed out and become a stenographer 3-5 years earlier. If these kids keep playing under an established and credible structure while their bodies are still hitting the final phases of development, maybe a couple of late bloomers pop up… what’s the downside?

      College soccer has always existed without the illusion of an odds-on, high paying professional career (or really, any career)… It will require little adjustment and will probably look just like it does now. Why not continue to leverage it to make sure we are capturing the last cut, instead of just the first?

      • Thank you, Ali Dia.

        These are not mutually exclusive systems. They have existed concurrently and will continue to do so. If the amount of pros that come out of college (versus academies) dwindles, then so be it (and probably better for the growth of the game in our country).

    • Gotta agree with Dinho. I used to think college soccer was a waste. Except a bunch of pretty good pros have come out of college. Ideally, people would go in to an academy. But not everyone is going to do that. And…not everyone is mature enough to be a pro at 17-18. Here’s the reality: it used to be that with a much weaker MLS, very few college players came in and were good enough to start as rookies. Now, with MLS at a much higher level of play, you see 4-8 college/super draft players (even more if you count “homegrown” players who spent 1-2 years in college) who come in and start as rookies. So colleges are producing better talent then they were a decade ago.

      Maybe the Sasho Cirovski proposal happens…and college soccer runs in the Fall and Spring with more training and more prep for games and no unlimited substitution. That’s still not as good as academies but it will make colleges even better. And then we’ll have a two track system: pro academies and colleges.

  6. Sounds like a humble kid with a good head on his shoulders. Never seen him play, though. Anyone care to comment on his ability?


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