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Cristian Roldan proud of US Soccer’s landmark equal-pay contract

“We want what’s best for each other.”

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

TUKWILA — Equal pay for equal play became a reality for the United States men’s and women’s national teams on Wednesday when the two separate players’ associations ratified landmark contracts. One of the most notable breakthroughs was in the decision for the two teams to pool their World Cup payouts the federation receives from FIFA.

At least among federations that consistently qualify for both World Cups, it’s considered a landmark agreement. The USMNT, for instance, will make $13 million just for qualifying for the Round of 16 at the 2022 World Cup, while the USWNT was rewarded with just $4 million for winning the 2019 World Cup.

“We felt that in order to get a deal done, this needed to happen,” said Cristian Roldan, a member of the United States National Soccer Team Players Association. “It’s something that a lot of national teams will want to do, and for us to be the first is pretty special.”

One thing that helped the negotiations, Roldan said, was that many of the players on the two national teams had gotten to know one another over the years, oftentimes through collaborations at the club level similar to what the Sounders and OL Reign do. He said he’s hopeful that we’ll see more unity going forward.

“We’re one federation and two national teams, but we’ve always talked about unifying the game and this is a way to do so,” Roldan said. “Hopefully, we can continue to grow the game together.

“We want what’s best for each other. This was a great example of two parties coming together and sorting out a divisive issue. It’s better to rise up together.”

Getting a rhythm

Perhaps the biggest reason why the Sounders have gotten off to a relatively slow start in league play is that they’ve been forced to juggle their lineup significantly. The Sounders have used 25 different starters and have yet to use any lineup twice in their 10 league games. That’s mostly due to a combination of injuries and an effort to mitigate the risk of overuse, as they’ve also had to play nine non-league games between Concacaf Champions League and U.S. Open Cup.

With those other competitions no longer a concern, the expectation is that there will be a bit more consistency going forward. In the win over the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday, for instance, the only change to the starting lineup that Brian Schmetzer made was due to Obed Vargas’ yellow-card suspension.

“I wanted that group to have another runout, not to test them physically, but to give them a chance to play together again to gain some momentum,” Schmetzer said after Friday’s training session. “The physical side is always an issue when you make final decisions on who would play, but that wasn’t my main concern.”

Schmetzer implied that he’s planning to minimally rotate again on Sunday when the Sounders visit the Colorado Rapids for another match that has the potential for a six-point swing in the Western Conference standings.

“The guys that would have normally talked about not playing in a three-game week, they’re already cleared to go,” he said.

That will surely come as welcome news to Cristian Roldan, who said it’s his preference to play as much as possible, even during busy weeks like this.

“Every time we’ve been rested, a starter has gone into Schmetzer’s office and complained,” Roldan said. “We want to be on the field. We want to be starting, playing heavy minutes, and [the Dynamo game] was a way for us to build that resilience. Hopefully we can have more back-to-back games where we play full starters, because we need to recover points that we lost earlier in the season.”

Ready for Rapids

Both the Sounders and Colorado Rapids will be a bit short-handed for Sunday’s game due to red cards on Wednesday. The Sounders will be without Alex Roldan, while the Rapids will be missing centerback Auston Trusty and midfielder Lucas Esteves.

Even without those two starters, the Rapids have a formidable team. They managed to finish atop the Western Conference last year — clipping the Sounders’ on the season’s final day — currently occupy the final playoff spot, and are 4-0-2 with just one goal allowed at home this year.

“They’ve got a good coach, good players,” Schmetzer said. “We’re not taking anything for granted, not taking anything lightly. We’re going to go to Colorado and try to put on a good performance.”

Injury updates

Two players who missed the Dynamo game with health concerns should be available against the Rapids. Both Jackson Ragen (health and safety protocol) and Léo Chu (undisclosed) were full participants in Friday’s training session and Schmetzer said they’d likely travel.