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Cristian Roldan reflects on positive USMNT experience

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The midfielder hopes to earn a spot on the Gold Cup roster.

Soccer: International Friendly Soccer-Panama at USA Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

TUKWILA, Wash. – Cristian Roldan returned to training with the Seattle Sounders at Starfire Sports Tuesday after being absent for the first United States Men’s National Team January camp under new head coach Gregg Berhalter. After a month’s worth of training with other MLS players in the national pool and playing the full 90 minutes in both U.S. friendlies, Roldan was thrilled with his experience.

“I think I had a great experience in terms of getting to know the guys, the soccer, the information,” Roldan said. “The two games itself were overall a good experience and I hope to bring back positive vibes to Seattle.”

Roldan, 23, first broke into the national team picture in July of 2017, being named to Bruce Arena’s roster for the 2017 Gold Cup. Roldan was with the squad through the group stages before being released back to the Sounders, though he would return to the team in a non-playing capacity to watch his teammates hoist the trophy after a 2-1 win over Jamaica.

Now, Roldan is hoping to stay on Berhalter’s radar as the Gold Cup in June draws near. The biggest notch in the midfielder’s belt from the January camp is that fellow 23-year-old defensive midfielder Kellyn Acosta was sent back to the Colorado Rapids before the friendlies as Berhalter trimmed his roster to 23 men for the friendlies against Panama and Costa Rica, while Roldan started both matches.

Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said Roldan showed the same enthusiasm for his country that he has for his club.

“I loved it,” Schmetzer said. “It shows that he is competitive. You can see by his body language in those games he loved being there. He wanted to be playing. For him to play both games certainly is a testament to his physical attributes. We were very happy with him.”

As Roldan keeps working to try and become a regular fixture with the national team, he says the versatility that he has developed in Seattle playing different positions helps him offer more to Schmetzer and Berhalter alike.

“I think it certainly helps that I’ve played so many positions here with the Sounders,” Roldan said. “The philosophy is very similar to what Gregg asks of us. Playing as a 10 when we had the ball and dropping back as a 6, sometimes playing out wide. I think it suits me personally because I’m not a fast player, I’m not a strong player, but if I can find the right pockets and the right spaces then it will suit me long term.”

Most important of all, however, was attitude:

“Gregg felt the team aspect is much more important than the individuals,” Roldan said. “If you’re not buying into the system, you’re most likely not going to be called up again. I think that that’s a huge positive in terms of the culture he wants to bring but also the ideal player he wants to bring in. Players have to come in ready to learn, ready to absorb information. And I think that’s key. For me, I’ve had a great experience, the culture was fantastic from day one and I learned a lot of information in a short span of time.”

Roldan hasn’t had any discussions with Berhalter about how to guarantee a spot on his Gold Cup roster, but the midfielder knows that he and his staff will be watching the early portion of his season to see if he can help the USMNT repeat as CONCACAF Champions.

“(We haven’t discussed) specific things in terms of the position he wants to see me in, because sometimes that’s out of your control, but I do foresee a positive year for the men’s national team,” Roldan said. “I hope to be part of it. In the position he had me playing, I do wish that I could have turned a little bit better, so that’s something that I’ll be working on. Hopefully that will help me get called in to Gold Cup and also World Cup qualifiers.”