Cristian Roldan and Jordan Morris have their eyes set on World Cup roster spots

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There are perhaps not two more controversial players in the United States Men’s National Team squad than Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan. As good as they’ve both been for the Seattle Sounders, their regular inclusion on World Cup qualifying rosters almost always causes trouble among a certain segment of the fan base.

Both players have again been called up to the upcoming USMNT training camp, one of only two camps Gregg Berhalter will host before finalizing his World Cup roster. The United States will also play four matches – friendlies against Morocco and Uruguay and Nations League matches against Grenada and El Salvador.

While most observers seem to think Morris and Roldan have a good chance of making that list, there’s also a pretty clear feeling that they’re among the ‘bubble’ players for the plane to Qatar. .

After Sunday’s Sounders game against Charlotte FC, I asked the two about their state of mind.

Morris has been involved with the USMNT since even before signing his first professional contract with the Sounders, including scoring in his first career start against Mexico. Since then, he has enjoyed a reasonable degree of success at the USMNT. He now has 42 caps in which he has scored six goals and assisted four more. But the last of those goals came in a 2019 friendly against Uruguay. Much of that drought can be attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic and injuries – he’s only made two starts since then – but he’s acutely aware he needs to produce to keep his place.

“Of course it’s in everyone’s mind – you want to go to the World Cup, but you try not to put too much pressure on yourself,” Morris said. “Especially trying to score goals, it’s going to weigh on you too much. You just have to keep pushing. It’s been a really exciting year for everyone.

Morris is currently recovering from his second ACL injury since 2018. Although he has scored six goals in all competitions this year – including a header in Sunday’s match – he knows he can still be more sharpened.

“I’m the first to admit that I’m not clean enough and I have to keep improving,” he said. “I create a lot of chances and I put myself in the right places, so the movement is there. It’s just the end product, whether it’s playing ball with Raúl [Ruidíaz] or Cristian or finish me, I just need to be cleaner. It’s something I come back to. It’s something that will keep coming. »

Working in Morris’ favor is that he is one of the fastest attacking players in the pool, and he fits right in with Berhalter’s desire to gain “verticality”.

Roldan’s role in the USMNT is not so clear. He has played primarily as a right-sided striker in recent seasons for the Sounders – already tallying 3 goals and 10 assists in all competitions this year – but is mainly used as one of two 8s in the line-up Berhalter’s favorite 4-3-3.

Roldan has 31 caps but just 11 starts and has recorded just 80 minutes in five appearances during the qualifying cycle despite being called up at each side. However, Berhalter seems to value just having Roldan and praised his mentality and willingness to work with younger players.

“We are all professionals and I feel like I can help and have an impact on the pitch,” Roldan said. “That’s why my attitude is great when I go to camp. I feel like I can still help the team move forward. If I don’t see the pitch, I’ll be the hardest working player in training and I’ll show that I care a lot about being part of the team.

Although often used as a cudgel against him, Roldan embraces his role as a player-coach of sorts, which players like Weston McKennie particularly enjoy.

“I feel like I understand the system pretty well and I feel like Gregg feels the same,” Roldan said. “In all the ways I can help Weston – sometimes it’s hard to talk to a player as a manager and for some reason it’s easier in the dressing room – every time the game is played I look at Weston, I look at Yunus [Musah] to see what they can do and how to help them, how to be a resource. If I can help 1% more, I want to see these guys succeed and see the team succeed even if I’m not on the pitch. Put yourself second and try to help the guys in any way you can.

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