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Alex Roldan officially returns to Sounders

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The El Salvador captain has signed a contract with three guaranteed years.

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

It was only two years ago that Alex Roldan reported to Seattle Sounders preseason out of contract and forced to fight for a roster spot. When he hits the training pitch on Friday, he’ll be infinitely more secure.

Fresh off a season in which he was named an MLS All-Star and established himself as the captain of the El Salvador national team, Roldan has signed a new contract that not only includes a significant raise but also includes three guaranteed years the team announced on Thursday. The Sounders will also have a team option for 2025.

“Alex’s role on the team dramatically increased last season and we are excited to have him back,” Sounders Head Coach Brian Schmetzer said in a team release. “Over his four seasons with the club, Alex has consistently improved as a professional, and I can’t wait to see how he continues to develop.”

The journey has been nothing short of whiplash-inducing for the 25-year-old, who was a late first-round pick in the 2018 SuperDraft. Although he had been reasonably successful as a collegian at Seattle University, most saw the pick almost as a favor to his brother Cristian.

But Roldan quickly earned the trust of his coaches and ended up making 19 appearances — including seven starts — his rookie year.

His sophomore campaign didn’t go quite as well. Playing mostly as a defense-first midfielder, Roldan never looked comfortable. Even worse, Roldan didn’t look particularly good in any of his six starts with the Tacoma Defiance. At the end of the season, the Sounders declined his option, leaving him with some big choices to make.

Perhaps out of stubbornness — or maybe the convenience of knowing he had a place to stay — Roldan returned to the Sounders for the 2020 preseason with nothing more than a promise to be open-minded about his prospects. Roldan ended up winning the backup right back spot.

Although he mostly came off the bench in 2020, he picked up a couple starts toward the end of the season and parlayed that into four straight starts in the MLS Cup Playoffs. He played well enough to convince the Sounders to give him a shot at starting in 2021, and never looked back.

Playing as a right wingback, Roldan seemed to find his calling. He played well enough that no one even batted an eye when he was named a starter in the 2021 MLS All-Star Game and then found himself in the middle of a tug-of-war between the Guatemala and El Salvador national teams. Roldan eventually chose El Salvador, who had qualified for the final round of World Cup qualifying, and immediately turned in a starring performance during the Gold Cup, where he scored a game-winning goal in his international debut.

Just six months after making his international debut, Roldan has now made 12 appearances, including starts in all eight of El Salvador’s World Cup qualifiers.

*This story was updated on Jan. 20. The original version ran on Jan. 13.