TORONTO — The Seattle Sounders’ biggest strength perhaps lies in their dynamic midfield. With veterans like Osvaldo Alonso and Nicolas Lodeiro bringing invaluable experience and technical skills to the pitch and a 21-year-old Cristian Roldan providing the energy and creativity, it may be difficult to find a more harmonious midfield trio in MLS than these three.
But in order for Alonso and Lodeiro to accentuate their best attributes, which are defense and distribution, respectively, it required Roldan to shift and mold himself into whatever Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer needed to find that perfect balance in the midfield.
The amount of effort Roldan exerts to help Seattle succeed is one of the bigger reasons why they are one win away from lifting the MLS Cup this Saturday in Toronto.
“He was given an opportunity and credit to him, he went out and took it,” said forward Jordan Morris. “You see it every weekend, he’s one of the harder working guys on the team and he’s a very team-oriented guy. He will do whatever it takes for the team to win. He’s been doing great and he’s only going to get better.”
Roldan, who was drafted at No. 16 overall out of the University of Washington in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, is slowing finding his niche within the Sounders squad in his second professional season. He started in 28 of the 33 games he played this year while tallied four goals and three assists, all while proving his versatility on the pitch by shifting between wide attacking and central holding roles to accommodate the Sounders’ needs on the given days.
Going up against a Toronto FC squad that possess the likes of Jozy Altidore, Sebastian Giovinco and Michael Bradley on Saturday, Roldan is well aware of what his role will be.
“They have great players offensively that do really well in the attacking third,” Roldan said. “And for us, myself and Ozzie, we have to be aware of those guys, always looking over our shoulders because if they receive the ball outside the box, they can really hurt us.”
A good game against a star-studded TFC team could do wonders for Roldan’s young career, but that appears to be the farthest thing from his mind this week.
“I just want to do the best for my team, I don’t see this as a way to showcase my talents,” Roldan said. “Obviously, it may present itself, but for me, I want to win the MLS Cup. I want to win that game to bring the trophy home for the fans. It’s not for me more individually, it’s more as a collective unit because we have been at this route for almost 12 months now.
“To finally see it come to an end with one final game, I think a lot of us are going to play our hearts out in the 90 minutes that we have.”