"We're brothers": Seattle Sounders roots run deep on USMNT

1118 USMNT Roldan Morris

The US men's national team have three players with deep Seattle ties on their 26-man roster for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. That places the Emerald City alongside bigger metro areas like New York City, Los Angeles, Dallas and Atlanta with three or more current or former long-term residents on the team.

At the heart of the Pacific Northwest soccer hotbed lies Seattle Sounders FC, who fostered national teamers DeAndre Yedlin and Jordan Morris through their youth academy and drafted southern California native Cristian Roldan out of the University of Washington in 2015.

Fraternal bond

While current Sounders Morris and Roldan have respectively played seven and eight years with the club, Yedlin hasn’t suited up for the Rave Green since 2014, before either Morris or Roldan turned pro. Still, the Inter Miami CF right back's connection to his two Seattle-based USMNT teammates remains strong.

“I love it, I love it,” Yedlin said at last week’s USMNT roster reveal event in Brooklyn. “They're putting on for the city. I’m obviously a big Seattle fan, so anybody who puts on for the city, I love them. And especially those two guys, they’re like my little brothers.

“I remember watching Cristian when he was in college at the University of Washington, so I’ve known him from way back," continued Seattle's first-ever homegrown. "Obviously [I know] Jordan Morris through youth soccer, and then obviously up into here. So it’s great to see those guys having so much success.”

Morris, who has overcome two torn ACLs, said their bonds will prove crucial as the USMNT enter Group B play Monday against Wales (2 pm ET | FOX, Telemundo).

"I played on the national team with DeAndre for a while, and Cristian as well in Seattle – great friends of mine," said the forward, who has 11 goals in 49 caps. "The great part of this team, it's such a close-knit group. We say that all the time. It's a group that will fight for each other, and we're brothers. So to be a part of a group that's so close, to go to a World Cup and play on a stage like this is incredible.”

Culture of resilience

Each player has enjoyed massive success during their time with the Sounders.

Morris and Roldan have won two MLS Cups, reached two more MLS Cup finals, and, most recently, won the 2022 Concacaf Champions League – marking the first time an MLS team earned the continent's top club prize since the tournament switched to its current format in 2008. Meanwhile, Yedlin won Supporters’ Shield and US Open Cup titles with the Sounders in 2014 before playing seven-plus years in Europe and then returning to MLS last winter.

What helps tie the trio together, besides stacking silverware for Seattle, is a shared ethos of resilience and grit, values that Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer – who’s been a near constant at the club since his NASL playing days in the 1970s – preaches consistently. Schmetzer often refers to his players as “tough kids,” relaying confidence they’ll recover from knocks and injuries quickly.

Morris embodies that approach, bouncing back from a second ACL tear – while on loan at Swansea City in February 2021 – that put his World Cup aspirations in jeopardy.

“What I told myself is I put everything I had into trying to make the [national] team," said the 28-year-old. "Over the last years, coming back from my injury, I worked as hard as I could and put everything into it.

"And so whatever the result was gonna be, I just had to be proud that I did everything I could to get there. And when [USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter] told me that I made the team, it just made that so much sweeter.”

Roldan and Yedlin have had to overcome major career adversity as well.

Roldan's playing days nearly stopped after high school, with only a last-minute offer from the University of Washington keeping his professional dreams alive. Yedlin had to study up on self-development literature to turn his fortunes around in Europe after struggling to make a mark with Tottenham Hotspur and then sitting on the bench at the start of his next spell with Sunderland in the EFL Championship.

Impacting the USMNT

Morris, Roldan and Yedlin likely aren't shoo-in starters in Qatar. That's something Roldan, in particular, is willing to accept – putting his own desires above the team's needs. 

“Over the last four years, when Gregg took over, that was his mindset," explained the 27-year-old midfielder. "He wanted to create a good culture, a winning culture, a close-knit culture, and for me, embracing that.

"Understanding that, look, if I don’t play a game, how can I impact the team? Understanding that I understand the tactics really well. How can I help my teammates? So little things like that I think help my case going into the World Cup squad.

“But I still want to play," added Roldan, who has 32 caps. "I still want to compete, and I think that’s why having a good mentality and mindset going into each and every camp is really important and exactly what Gregg wants.”

Yedlin is the only player with previous World Cup experience (Brazil 2014) on the USMNT's roster, which is the second-youngest in Qatar. The 29-year-old believes his fellow Sounders products are ready to make their mark on the world's stage.

“First of all, they’re both incredible guys," said Yedlin, who carries a team-leading 75 caps. "That’s the first thing. Secondly, they both, whether they’re on the field, whether they’re in training, whether they’re on the bench, they’re both just amazing.

"They have amazingly positive attitudes. They want the best for the team. They want the best for everybody else. They’re not selfish at all. So those are the kind of guys you want around. Those are the guys that help push the team to be the best they can be.”