TUKWILA — When Cristian Roldan mapped his 2021 soccer calendar — a stretch of time that would include international competitions for club and country — he said he was hyper-focused on fitness and rest to prepare.
Turns out the first run of international play wasn't as grueling as planned, and that rest will benefit the Sounders FC. Despite being two days removed from helping the U.S. men's national team win the CONCACAF Gold Cup final in Las Vegas, Roldan is expected to start for the Sounders against FC Dallas on Wednesday night at Lumen Field.
"I've been itching to get 90 minutes in," Roldan said Tuesday after training at Starfire Sports.
The midfielder left the Sounders after playing a full 90 in a draw July 4 against Colorado. Roldan described the call-up for the Gold Cup as the last time to prove to USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter that he should be in the mix for the World Cup qualifier rosters this fall.
To Roldan, that meant starting. Instead, he didn't play in the Gold Cup opener, played one full match and was a substitute for the remaining four. He logged 214 minutes in the tournament, which was played entirely on U.S. soil.
But Roldan was a game-changer when on the field. He had a winning assist to advance the U.S. to the semifinals. And Roldan was on the field when the team pushed to defeat Mexico 1-0 in extra time Sunday.
For the Sounders, Roldan was a mainstay starter before the call-up, playing 90 minutes in each match — including two three-game weeks. The Rave Green is 7-0-5 this season when Roldan starts.
"When you win a trophy, you don't care how you win it," Roldan said, still beaming from the experience. "I was saddened to hear that I was going to be coming off the bench. Regardless, I was ready to roll and play my part — really the whole tournament. When Gregg told me he felt like I deserved to start but ended up going with someone else, I understood and brought the same energy for the game."
Roldan has faced harsh criticism from national pundits about whether he can contribute. The USMNT roster fielded for the Gold Cup tournament overall was thought not to be the country's best. Yet the collection of young players led the U.S. to its first Gold Cup championship since 2017.
"Yes, (USMNT) was missing some guys that were playing in Europe, I get all that," Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said of stars such as Christian Pulisic.
In May, the winger helped Chelsea win the UEFA Champions League trophy. Pulisic scored the winning goal to help the USMNT defeat Mexico for the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League championship in June.
"The group of players that Gregg has at his disposal is growing and is getting better," Schmetzer said. "Cristian (Roldan) is solidly in that mix."
In addition to Roldan's return, defenders Brad Smith (hamstring) and AB Cissoko (tendinitis) will be available for selection after suffering minor injuries. Midfielder Josh Atencio (rib) also is available.
Atencio was initially diagnosed with a broken rib following Saturday's loss to San Jose, but it was later determined to be a deep bone bruise, Schmetzer said. Atencio was outfitted with a flak jacket and isn't expected to miss any games.
Injuries and international call-ups have forced Schmetzer to tap 24 players and utilize 14 starting lineups. But at the halfway point of the season, the Sounders (9-3-5) are atop Western Conference standings.
Seattle dropped its past two home matches, to Kansas City (3-1) and San Jose (1-0). The Sounders haven't had a three-game losing streak at home since 2016.
"We've done a good job," Schmetzer said in evaluating the first half of the season. "We've overcome a lot of adversity. Massive amounts of adversity, and we're still in first place.
"The sting of the last two home games is still there. That puts a little bit of a shadow on what we've accomplished. But if you look at the body of work for the first 17 games, it's been very, very good. So we did some reflection. We are getting players back, and we're trying to reboot for the second part of the year."