Cristian Roldan rejoined the Sounders on Monday after making his international debut last week with the United States Men's National Team in a win over Martinique
Cristian Roldan returned to the Sounders from the U.S. men’s national team Monday, saying he appreciated the experience and hopes for more.
Roldan played 90 minutes in a 3-2 win over Martinique on Wednesday in his first international appearance during Group Stage play in the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament.
Once considered a long shot to play for the U.S. — given he’d bypassed the youth academy system in favor of playing high-school soccer — Roldan said he felt largely at home and not in awe of anything amid the younger collection of players assembled by coach Bruce Arena for the tournament’s opening round.
“It was a young group, and this group was very welcoming,” Roldan said Monday after working out with the Sounders in Tukwila. “They all had the same goal, and that was to make a good impression on Bruce (Arena) and the national-team staff. So just like them, I felt like I was in the same shoes as them. We were able to become good friends and all do the same things that we were supposed to do.”
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As expected, Arena returned many of those younger players to their teams after the initial stage and imported a flock of veterans for the team’s quarterfinal against El Salvador on Wednesday in Philadelphia. Among the imports are Sounders forward Clint Dempsey, whose 56 international goals are one shy of Landon Donovan’s U.S. record.
Sounders forward Jordan Morris played in all three USMNT games — scoring twice — and has been kept for the knockout round.
Roldan admitted to some initial disappointment at not sticking around with good pal Morris. But he understands he was just being given an initial taste of things and hopes it won’t be the last time.
“Obviously, you want more,” he said. “But you obviously understand where you’re at.”
Among the things he picked up was the need to have “a good first touch” because of the quicker level of play than what he’s used to.
“I think that was the most important thing for me,” Roldan said. “Really getting focused in and keyed in on that first touch. That can give you a lot more time on the ball. Much more time than you actually think.”
While Roldan, 22, is coming off an impressive feat at a young age, one of his former training-camp teammates did something similar Monday. Azriel Gonzalez, who turned 16 in May, became the youngest member of the Sounders organization to sign a professional contract, inking a pact with the Sounders 2 squad of the United Soccer League.
Gonzalez, featured in a Seattle Times article last January, had already made five appearances with S2 since April during promotions from the team’s youth academy.
“Azriel is a very talented young player, and we’re excited to have him in our organization,” Sounders director of player personnel Kurt Schmid said in a release. “Since joining the Academy, Azriel has embodied the type of players we aim to develop in our system. We are very excited in his long-term potential.”
Gonzalez joined the Sounders’ academy as a 13-year-old out of Las Vegas. He initially lived with a cousin in Renton before his mother, two brothers and a sister joined him at a rental home in Kent. His father, a construction worker, remained behind all of last year selling their home in Las Vegas before finally joining them at a newly bought home in Renton.
The Sounders resume MLS play Wednesday — following a two-week Gold Cup break — against Eastern Conference cellar dwellers D.C. United at CenturyLink Field. Having Roldan back should bolster a squad that is now without both forwards Dempsey and Morris, along with injured midfielder Osvaldo Alonso and center back Chad Marshall.
“The team is always ready,” Sounders midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro said Monday. “We’ve had some days to rest, which we needed. It’s true that we have some guys who are injured and others with their national teams, but that’s what we have and we’ve got to be prepared to win.”