D.C. United's Andy Najar made his first national team appearance for Honduras tonight, while fellow Black-and-Red youngsters Bill Hamid and Chris Pontius still await their first caps for the United States.
After all the talk and speculation, it finally happened: DC United winger Andy Najar got his first cap for the Honduran national team. Facing Colombia at Red Bull Arena, Najar made his Catrachos debut in the 67th minute for striker Jerry Bengtson in what ended up as a 2-0 loss for Honduras. Before Najar's entry, Honduras had gone down to 10 men after defensive midfielder Hendry Thomas was sent off early in the second half. Despite that, Najar did manage to fire a shot on goal that was punched away by Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina.
Despite all the fevered guessing and hoping from the US media - not to mention the rampant paranoia in the Honduran press that the US would somehow "steal" Najar - this was always the most likely outcome. While Najar is not technically tied to Honduras until he plays an official competitive match for them, his appearance in this game should end the talk about what national team he will end up with (you hear me, Ian Darke?).
However, a debut is a long way from a permanent starting role. Other than at defensive midfield, Honduras is deepest at right midfield. Najar will have to outperform one-time Houston Dynamo target Oscar Boniek Garcia - who has been first-choice for some time now - as well as Marvin Chavez of FC Dallas, Mario Martinez of Real Espana, and others.
Regular readers are probably aware of the high praise I have for Garcia whenever I see him play, and Chavez regularly causes headaches for even the best MLS defenses. In the loss to Colombia, Garcia got the start with Martinez (who was replaced by Chavez a few minutes before Najar came in) at left midfield. It's a tough challenge, but there is a bright side: If Najar can establish himself as the best Honduran right winger, then he'll be in truly outstanding form for United.
Najar will get the opportunity to add a second cap Tuesday, as Honduras will host 2011 Copa America finalist Paraguay in San Pedro Sula.
Read beyond the jump for news on the rest of DC's growing group of national team players (remember when we had none?):On Toronto FC's home field - his former stomping grounds - Dwayne De Rosario and Canada endured a frustrating first half before eventually thumping St. Lucia 4-1. De Ro scored the eventual winner from the penalty spot in the 51st minute after a handball, and it was his pinpoint cross that allowed Toussaint Ricketts to head down for Will Johnson's 91st minute finish.
The bad news is that MLS's reigning Player of the Month endured several clumsy tackles from St. Lucia, including one that got Pernel Williams his second yellow card late on. Despite that, De Ro appeared to escape unscathed, playing his typical full 90 for Canada. Next up for De Ro will be another qualifier, this time at Puerto Rico (yes, they have a national team) on Tuesday.
Dejan Jakovic was also called up for the Canucks, but withdrew from the squad due to a hamstring strain.
United goalkeeper Bill Hamid was once again called in by new US boss Juergen Klinsmann to back up Tim Howard. While he did again dress for the match, he somewhat unsurprisingly did not make his debut in the USMNT's 1-0 loss to Costa Rica. Given the shoddy defending Howard was having to cover for - including a string of saves before the Ticos finally scored - maybe it's for the best. Hamid wears his heart on his sleeve, and playing behind a struggling back four would have been a difficult way to make his debut in terms of confidence.
Chris Pontius was one of three players left out of the gameday 18 by Klinsmann (Teal Bunbury and the ineligible Fabian Johnson being the others). There were hopes that Pontius would see time in Tuesday's friendly against Belgium (2:30pm, ESPN), but according to Steve Goff he has been released from the squad.
Maybe it's just me, but this seems like an odd decision. Brek Shea has played a staggering amount of soccer in recent weeks between FC Dallas being active in three competitions and his appearances for the national team, while Robbie Rogers struggled throughout against Costa Rica. With Landon Donovan also being released from the squad and Jose Torres clearly much better in a central midfield role, one is forced to assume Klinsmann expects Shea and Rogers to play the full 90 against the Belgians. (EDIT: Clint Dempsey will join the squad in Belgium, so that might explain the decision to leave Pontius behind)
The silver lining, of course, is that Pontius does not have to deal with an energy-sapping travel schedule that would have meant a flight from California to Belgium, a game, and then a flight back across the Atlantic, all before United's crucial visit to Chivas USA (meaning another cross-country flight) next Saturday.
Going back to that Costa Rica goal, it was scored by former United wingback/Rockville resident/Maryland Terrapin Rodney Wallace on his international debut. Wallace had barely stepped onto the field to play left midfield before he bundled home what seemed to be the 65th rebound in a mad scramble. It would have been very nice for Wallace to score his first international goal against someone else, but it's still nice to see a local kid with DCU ties succeed at the next level.