With a little over a week until the season kicks off, no Sounders player is more excited to make the journey to El Salvador than Cristian Roldan. Roldan, who spent time as a boy in his mother’s native country, is looking forward to the opportunity to play in front of his extended family when Seattle takes on Santa Tecla in the CONCACAF Champions League.
Speaking at practice Monday, Roldan expects to see some friendly faces in an otherwise hostile crowd.
“I expect a lot of my family members to be at the game,” Roldan said. “Hopefully I can get as many tickets as possible. It’s going to be a pretty surreal feeling for them and myself that I’ll be playing in my mom’s native country.”
It’s been eight years since Roldan has had a chance to return to El Salvador. As a boy he watched his cousins play for C.D. FAS in Santa Ana, and would sometimes act as a ball boy for the club.
The 22-year-old midfielder, who turned down numerous offers of call-ups from El Salvador and Guatemala for a chance to represent the United States on the international stage, made some minor waves entertaining the crowd as a 10-year-old: “At halftime I was juggling the ball and the fans were going crazy for it,” Roldan said, smiling. “It’s probably one of the most memorable moments back in El Salvador.”
Had the fans known the type of player Roldan would turn into there may have been clamors to hand the 10-year-old a contract on the spot. El Salvador’s loss may be Seattle and the USMNT’s gain, but Roldan isn’t expecting a cakewalk at Estadio Las Delicias.
“El Salvador has quality players. You saw it in the Gold Cup. It’s a growing country in terms of soccer. They have a lot of young guys that are improving each day. I think the quality is going to be high. It’s going to be a difficult match.”
Seattle trains at Starfire until Wednesday, after which they will travel to Sacramento to take on the USL’s Sacremento Republic FC for a final tuneup friendly. From there the team will head to El Salvador for the first leg of their tilt with Santa Tecla, as well as Roldan’s opportunity to show just how far his juggling has progressed.