Being named to a World Cup roster is a dream come true for just about every player who has ever kicked a soccer ball. That’s just as true for players who have long been considered locks for the roster as it is for players who genuinely didn’t know their fates.
Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan definitely fall into that latter camp. Heck, it’s entirely possible they were the two last players Gregg Berhalter settled on when picking his 26-man roster for Qatar. Whether they were confident in getting picked or not, the emotions surrounding the decision was obvious enough.
Morris, who came back from two separate ACL injuries between the USA’s failure to qualify in 2018 and successfully making the 2022 tournament, fought back tears when Berhalter told him about his inclusion.
Roldan, meanwhile, managed to put on a strong face with Berhalter only to break down during a call with his parents while recounting the sacrifices they made for him to reach this point.
Both videos should serve as reminders of these players’ humanity and that making a World Cup roster is a the culmination of near lifetime of work. But it’s not just emotional reasons that these players should be given space to celebrate their achievements.
For all the debate surrounding Roldan and Morris, in particular, it seems to have been lost that they both bring important qualities to the squad.
Morris has the kind of line-stretching speed that few in the USMNT player pool possess. He’s also been a pretty consistent goal-contributor throughout his national team career, scoring 11 goals and adding eight assists in about 2,000 minutes that translates to .68 goals+assists per 90 minutes.
Roldan has admittedly not been nearly as productive with the national team — he has just two assists in about 1,500 minutes — but is a versatile player who can play effectively almost anywhere on the field. He’s also clearly beloved in the locker room and valuable in ways we don’t always see. Berhalter has often said that he believes Roldan helps raise the level of training, regardless of how much he actually plays.
They also seem to be very popular among teammates, something that can’t be understated in an environment where the team will amost have to overperform the sum of its parts in order to make real noise in Qatar.
“They’re two amazing guys, amazing people,” USMNT teammate Walker Zimmerman said when asked about Roldan and Morris. “They are always rooting for everyone whether they’re on the field or not. They’re selfless. I’m really happy for them.”