Cristian Roldan, the son of El Salvadorian and Guatemalan immigrant parents, couldn’t hold back the tears.
US men’s national team head coach Gregg Berhalter had just called him, providing highly-anticipated news that he’s going to the FIFA 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The Seattle Sounders FC midfielder had secured one of his country’s 26 roster spots. There was no need, any longer, to be on pins and needles.
Naturally, one of Roldan’s next calls was to his mom and dad. All the sacrifices his family had made, the journey to this accomplishment every player dreams of, was turning into reality.
“I'm just so thankful for you guys. … Without you guys, I wouldn't be here,” a teary-eyed Roldan told his parents, as captured in US Soccer’s ‘The Call’ video series. “From the bottom of my heart, just thank you for everything. I hope you guys are proud of me and our two brothers and I want to continue to make you guys proud.”
The behind-the-scenes content provides a window into the moment, when a player finds out they’re going to the World Cup. Berhalter made the rounds Sunday and Monday before Wednesday’s big reveal, and the FaceTime calls are full of raw emotion.
In one conversation, all the hard work paid off.
“This is the cherry on top of everything that we've dreamed of,” said Roldan, who grew up near Los Angeles. “I mean, to not even think that I was going to play college soccer to now going to the World Cup, it's incredible.”
Roldan, 27, joined Seattle in 2015 after playing at the University of Washington. He’s since become an all-time great for the Sounders, ranking third in club history with 47 assists across all competitions and seventh with 36 goals – all via 280 appearances.
He’s not slated to start for the USMNT in Qatar, but Berhalter praised what sort of impact the 32-times-capped midfielder provides.
“We know what type of team player you are and we know what type of attitude you bring each and every day,” Berhalter told Roldan. “That's going to be valuable to the team. Thank you for that and please continue to do that because your mentality is contagious. We're going to need that type of attitude.”
One thing is for certain: Simply making the roster has made the Roldan parents extremely proud.
“You just touched the sky,” said his father. “What else can you do?”
Going on a deep World Cup run would be a good start. The USMNT open Group B play Nov. 21 against Wales, then also face England (Nov. 25) and Iran (Nov. 29). The group’s top two finishers reach the 16-team knockout round, building toward a Dec. 18 final at Lusail Stadium.