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Seattle Sounders’ Cristian Roldan will get to know Philadelphia well: first against the Union, then likely with the USMNT

One of the latest viral sensations in American soccer will be at Talen Energy Stadium on Saturday.

After leading the Seattle Sounders against the Union this weekend, Cristian Roldan is likely to return to town win the U.S. national team next month for the Concacaf Gold Cup.
After leading the Seattle Sounders against the Union this weekend, Cristian Roldan is likely to return to town win the U.S. national team next month for the Concacaf Gold Cup.Read moreTed S. Warren / AP

One of American soccer’s latest viral sensations will be at Talen Energy Stadium on Saturday when the Union host the Seattle Sounders.

Search for “Cristian Roldan goal” on YouTube, and the proof will be right there. The midfielder hit spectacular shots in consecutive games earlier this month, helping one of MLS’ elite teams to stay in second place in the Western Conference.

Roldan’s game is about much more than that, though, and local soccer fans will see that up close. He is both industrious and creative, and at age 23 is on track to keep getting better.

That’s why you’ll likely see him not just Saturday night in Chester (7:30 p.m., PHL17), but also next month at Lincoln Financial Field. Though it’s not official yet, Roldan has a good chance of making the U.S. national team’s Gold Cup squad. If the Americans reach the quarterfinals, which they should easily, they’ll play in South Philadelphia on June 30.

Roldan, who has nine caps so far, wants to help revive a fan base still scarred by the failure to qualify for last year’s World Cup.

“I think it’s very important, first of all, that we compete and that we play the way we want to play, because it’s time to establish a philosophy [and] system, and I think [coach Gregg] Berhalter is doing that,” Roldan said at the team’s hotel Friday. “Winning with style, for sure, but also winning our fans back. ... It’s time to put a little bit of that confidence, that belief, back into the system, into the men’s national team, and the Gold Cup, for what it’s worth, is extremely valuable for us this summer.”

The Sounders will need Roldan even more than usual against the Union. Star striker (and Roldan’s close friend) Jordan Morris is out after straining a hamstring in Wednesday’s win over Orlando, and midfielders Gustav Svensson and Victor Rodriguez are also injured.

“As a defensive midfielder, it’s tough to really say I need to change the game — I can obviously dictate tempo, but I can’t score each and every game,” he said with his typical modesty. “I do feel that there’s a little bit more, I would say, pressure on me to play extremely well because of these guys being out."

The Union, meanwhile, are on a roll. Roldan knows it, and sees a player he’d like to emulate in Alejandro Bedoya. They know each other from playing on the 2017 Gold Cup squad.

“I always admired his game, because I felt it was very similar to mine,” Roldan said. “Just doing the little things right, plugging in any holes that the team lacks. Until I saw Ale play firsthand in training, I really didn’t appreciate how good he was. ... I know how difficult it is to play against a guy like that, because Ale is a workhorse and he understands the game extremely well.”

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