The 2022 FIFA World Cup is just days away. Despite the Qatari tournament being a controversial one, everyone at Cal South is fully behind Team USA and we can’t wait for the Group Stages to kick off. This year, we’ve got even more reason to celebrate as four Cal South Alumni are set to make their World Cup berths.
Luca de la Torre, Aaron Long, Cristian Roldan, and Haji Wright have all been selected for the USMNT World Cup Squad. Their selections are testament to the decades of hard work being carried out by clubs, coaches, and players in Cal South. With this group, Cal South has now been represented by 10 USNMT players at the World Cup. Here’s to many more!
Luca de la Torre has been part of the United States National Team setup since he was a teenager. He was an integral feature of the under-17 team that competed in the CONCACAF Championship and World Cup in 2015. He played alongside Christian Pulisic and fellow Cal South Alum, Haji Wright on various youth national teams.
Born and raised in San Diego, California, Luca suited up for Nomads SC in his youth, a storied and well-respected club in Cal South. He was part of the Cal South 1998 Boys ODP Program that won a USYS Regional Championship. De la Torre’s midfield craft was recognized at a very young age, earning him a chance to move to England and join Fulham, where he played in four first-team seasons, from 2016/17 to 2019/20.
After spending two years in the Eredivisie (Netherlands), with Heracles Almelo, de la Torre was signed by La Liga side, Celta de Vigo and made his debut against Real Madrid. Luca has represented the USMNT 12 times. This, combined with his experience at underage level means he could be a key player in the Qatar World Cup. Throughout his youth career, de la Torre has shown a knack for scoring important goals in big games.
Here’s hoping Luca gets the chance to perform on the biggest stage at the World Cup this year. He’ll have all of San Diego behind him once the tournament starts.
Aaron Long’s career is an underdog story that demonstrates the value of having grit, determination, and a never say die attitude. Growing up in Oak Hills, CA, Aaron was part of the Cal South youth soccer structure, playing for several successful teams, including Sporting CA, Arsenal FC, Serrano High School, and UC Riverside. Aaron also represented the Cal South 1992 Boys ODP Program, where he was part of the team that won the USYS Regional and National Championships.
After being drafted by the Portland Timbers in 2014, Aaron spent the next three seasons bouncing around different teams, fighting for first-team minutes in the USL. During that time, he also worked construction in the off-season to help keep his professional soccer dreams alive. These ambitions were soon realized after he signed for New York Red Bulls II in 2016.
In his only season with the USL Bulls, Long led his team to victory in the USL Cup. He commanded the defense all season long and was pivotal in helping the backline concede the fewest goals in the regular season during that campaign. As the cherry on top of a marvelous year, Long was named USL Defender of the Year.
Aaron was promoted to the New York Red Bulls first team in 2017 and has never looked back. He’s won the MLS Supporters Cup (2018), MLS Defender of the Year (2018), and has been named an MLS All-Star twice (2018 and 2022). He is now the club captain. Long received his first call-up to the USMNT in 2018 and has also captained his country.
Aaron Long is a proud product of Cal South and is the perfect role model for young players everywhere. Never give up on your dreams!
Cristian Roldan is an MLS veteran who has accomplished tremendous achievements in his career with the Seattle Sounders. Some of his most notable honors include two MLS Cups (2016 and 2019), a CONCACAF Champions League (2022), and an MLS All-Star (2021), where he captained the team. Roldan was also part of the USMNT that won the confederation championships in 2017 and 2019.
Before amassing almost 300 appearances in the MLS, Roldan competed in the Cal South youth structure, where he played for Necaxa USA as part of the Coast Soccer League (CSL). He represented El Rancho High School in Pico Rivera, CA, and won the Gatorade National Player of the Year in 2013. Following on from this, Roldan played two seasons at the University of Washington before declaring for the 2015 MLS SuperDraft.
Roldan has been a regular for the USMNT over the past 5 seasons. Everyone at Cal South wishes him the best of luck in Qatar. His leadership and experience could be invaluable during crunch games.
Haji Wright has long been touted as one of the most exciting youth products the USYS has ever produced. Born in Los Angeles, Wright represented FC Los Angeles in the Cal South youth system and was deemed a standout talent at a young age. He joined LA Galaxy in his early teens and represented Cal South 1998 Boys ODP Program, helping the team win a USYS Regional Championship.
After impressing domestically and with the underage national team, Wright was invited to join Schalke 04 (Germany) on the turn of his 18th birthday. His hard work in the academy earned him a spot in the first team where he went on to score in the Bundesliga top flight. Haji now plays for Turkish side, Antalyaspor. He’s had an excellent 2022 season and is in rich goal-scoring form.
As a tall, strong, and fast striker, Wright could prove to be a pivotal out ball in USMNT’s World Cup outing. His finishing this year has been nothing short of excellent. Here’s hoping he can continue this success in Qatar. It’s been a pleasure to watch Haji pass through the Cal South ranks and represent our association at the highest level in European soccer!