Central American immigrants’ World Cup dream comes true with Cristian Roldán of Team USA
Simeone, Cristian Roldán of Costa Rica and Luis Cuadrado of Panama walk to the media box after the 1-0 final game against Spain.
Feb 8, 2017
Cristian Roldán won two World Cup awards after the Costa Rica National Team’s 2-1-1 victory in the Gold Medal match, beating Spain 3-1 in a penalty shootout on Nov. 22, 2015. (USMNT photo/John Rivera/Getty Images)
The World Cup, which opens next week in Russia, has been something of a Cinderella story for the 20 countries that have qualified for the event. Of the 15 teams to reach the final six, all of them had to qualify through UEFA play-offs in the European Championships — which are a competition for the top ranked teams in the world. (U.S. and Argentina qualified in 2013, and Brazil in 2014.)
The competition has become a showcase for young players, but there have not been many superstars to take home the hardware.
So for all the new stars the tournament has ushered in, one country has received more attention from the rest of the world than any other.
The United States, which reached the final for the first time in 20 years, has had its fair share of World Cup heroes in the past. Michael Jordan, the most-popular player in U.S. history, was a star in the NBA, but his popularity did not translate to the international soccer scene.
That is not the case for Cristian Roldán, 23.
Roldán was named the MVP player in MLS for the 2014 season after scoring 16 goals in his debut campaign. He scored two goals in the 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs, including one in the 2-1 win over the Houston Dynamo.
Roldán earned a spot on Costa Rica’s roster for two World Cup tournaments in 2014 and 2015, and was the youngest player on that squad. He was able to make the squad for the 2015 Gold Medal match, and went on to be voted MVP of the tournament.
However, one of the big changes to the game occurred in Roldán’s second World Cup, when he came down with Guillain-Barre syndrome,