Focusing on soccer is increasingly more difficult for Sounders FC midfielder Cristian Roldan.
Piling on top of staying healthy amid the coronavirus pandemic and raising awareness for the Black Lives Matter movement — particularly by motivating people to register and participate in the Nov. 3 election — is a mounting concern for his family.
Wildfires, in addition to property damage, have created hazardous health conditions throughout the Pacific Northwest and in Roldan’s native Southern California. And a court ruling announced Monday lifted protections for Central American immigrants who sought refuge in the U.S. due to disasters or civil unrest in their native countries. Roldan and his brother Alex, also a Sounders midfielder, are first-generation U.S. residents whose mother is from El Salvador and have family who could be impacted if deportations are enforced.
“It’s definitely been my hardest year as a professional,” Roldan said via phone Thursday. The former University of Washington star made his MLS debut in 2015. “My mother, myself, we’re in the clear, we’re safe. But things that affect my mother’s country, affect me. Personally, you want to feel wanted in this country specifically, so it’s tough to deal with, but we’ll manage.”
Soccer is typically an escape, but the club’s match Friday against Los Angeles FC will have its own challenges. Major League Soccer is monitoring the air quality due to smoke from the region’s wildfires.
The Sounders conducted some training outdoors this week despite unhealthy air quality conditions. The league and club use multiple readings to gauge activity. The air-quality index threshold needs to be 200 or higher to cancel or postpone a practice or match.
Georgetown, a neighborhood south of CenturyLink Field, recorded the Puget Sound region’s highest-ever AQI at 314 on Monday, according to reporting by The Seattle Times. The National Weather Service is forecasting rain for kickoff Friday, which should clear some of the smoke.
The Sounders (5-2-3) played in hazy conditions last week due to smoke from wildfires and defeated the San Jose Earthquakes 7-1 at CenturyLink.
“You feel more winded faster,” Roldan said of training. “It’s been shorter practices. We don’t want to be out in the smoke all day (and) it gives us more of a reason to stay home and be safe. … There’s a lot of things going on with the fires, but we have to carry on and focus on soccer while the world is literally burning. That is just another part of being a professional. You can’t be distracted.”
LAFC (4-4-3), which will travel to Seattle on Friday to guard against the spread of COVID-19, relocated their training from a facility east of downtown to Banc of California Stadium due to better air quality.
“It’s one more thing that everybody is dealing with,” LAFC coach Bob Bradley told MLS.com. “The main concern in all of these moments is to have a bigger perspective than just what’s going on with the team, try to see what’s going on with the incredible firefighters, with the families who are faced with these dangerous fires. So we’re thinking of everybody.”
The Sounders again have the opportunity to move into first place in the Western Conference standings with a win. The Rave Green defeated LAFC 3-1 in their last meeting on Aug. 30 at CenturyLink.
Sounders striker Raul Ruidiaz scored a first-half goal and forward Jordan Morris scored a brace within 59 seconds in the second half to put LAFC away. The rapid scores broke a record Roldan set in 2017.
“This is a great attacking team that can really hurt you, even on the road,” Roldan said of LAFC. “It’s going to be how good we are on the counterattack. We know that they’re going to high-press. We know they’re going to play penetrating balls and they re-press extremely well. It’s about getting behind (their defense) and understanding that we can hurt them with our offense.”
- Sounders defensive midfielder Gustav Svensson has returned from playing with his Swedish national team in the UEFA Nations League. He is in the midst of a 10-day quarantine and needs to clear COVID-19 testing in order to rejoin training. The Sounders first-team hasn’t reported any positive cases for the virus since returning in July from Florida where the MLS is Back tournament was held.