El Rancho (Pico Rivera, California) senior forward Cristian Roldan was sitting in marine biology class today when he learned he’d moved to the top of the food chain—in high school soccer. Roldan was named the 2012-13 Gatorade National Boys Soccer Player of the Year. Two-time FIFA World Cup veteran Alexi Lalas delivered the news in a surprise visit.
“Just to be mentioned in the same sentence as people who have won this award is mind-blowing,” Roldan said. “It’s something I’ll probably never live up to, but this is also a day I’ll never forget.”
The 5-foot-7, 165-pound Roldan led the Dons to a 29-2-1 record and the CIF-Southern Section Division III crown this past season. Roldan scored 54 goals and passed for 31 assists as El Rancho also captured the Division I title at the CIF Southern California Regional Soccer Championships. He has signed with the University of Washington.
The Gatorade Player of the Year award recognizes outstanding athletic excellence as well as high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field. Roldan is now a finalist for the Gatorade Male High School Athlete of the Year award. USA Today High School Sports administrates the nationwide selection process in collaboration with Gatorade.
“Cristian has a midfielder’s mentality, but a finisher’s foot,” said Sheldon Shealer, Editor of EliteSoccerReport.com. “Despite his small stature, he can be a physical player. His 54 high school goals against some of the best competition in the state this past season show he’s an effective goal-scorer. Cristian had opportunities to play for higher-profile clubs and even transfer to prominent private schools, but declined in order to stay with his El Rancho teammates, leading them to a sectional and regional title in 2013.”
Roldan, who also plays central midfield, concluded his prep career with 94 goals and 71 assists despite missing all but two games of his freshman year with an arm injury. He was named the 2013 Southern Section Division III Most Valuable Player. Roldan also earned Southern Section Division IV MVP honors as a sophomore in 2011 when he led El Rancho to the first of two sectional titles in a three-year span. The Dons are 78-6-3 since 2010.
“Soccer has grown exponentially across the U.S., but Cristian is a star in the hotbed of Southern California,” said Lalas, 42, who was named Gatorade Michigan Boys Soccer Player of the Year in 1987-88 and is now a television analyst for ABC and ESPN. “That geography makes his accomplishments that much more impressive. What’s even more special is that this is about who he is off the field too—the academics and the community service. In my experience, those additional tools are going to make him a better soccer player.”
Also a three-year varsity volleyball starter, Roldan has maintained a 3.39 GPA in the classroom. He has volunteered locally as an American Youth Soccer Organization coach and as part of El Rancho’s Blue Pride service project for which students coordinate and execute annual refurbishment and beautification initiatives on campus. A member of the California Scholarship Federation for maintaining a B+ average and serving as a peer mentor, Roldan is a four-year participant on the Dons’ College Bound Athletes committee, which serves as a guidance and support group for aspiring college athletes in addition to assisting with school athletic department activities.
Roldan, 17, is a first-generation American citizen. He becomes the 60th prep athlete from California to earn national Gatorade honors in the award’s 28-year history, more than any other state. Texas (27), Florida (19) and Illinois (15) are next. Roldan is the fourth boys national winner from California, joining MLS defender Jordan Harvey (2001-02), former MLS midfielder Greg Dalby (2002-03) and University of California at Santa Barbara freshman forward Ema Boateng (2011-12). He is the first from LA County.