With only nine days to the opening of the 2014 season – with the Dynamo hosting the New England Revolution on March 8 – we continue our countdown to kickoff series with a rundown of Dynamo players hoping to make the trip to Brazil in June for the 2014 World Cup.
The competition to be on a World Cup roster is fierce – 207 national teams opened qualification for the 2014 competition in June 2011 and 32 countries emerged from the long road of qualifying. For each of the 32 World Cup rosters, tough decisions will be made and excellent players will ultimately be left off.
Four players in Dynamo history have shared the talent and fortune to be a part of a World Cup: Brian Ching (USA; 2006), Ricardo Clark (USA; 2010), Boniek Garcia (Honduras; 2010), and Stuart Holden (USA; 2010).
For Dynamo players seeking places on their national teams ahead of the competition in Brazil, two important dates stand out. First is May 13, when the 30-man provisional roster must be submitted by each national team. Then, June 2, when the final 23-man roster must be turned into FIFA. Before the final roster is presented, players should have the opportunity to make a final impression in their respective national team camps in late May.
Beginning with Honduras, Garcia appears to be a lock for Los Catrachos. Garcia, 29, appeared in every game of the final stage of World Cup qualifying lasy year and has 91 caps overall, sixth-most in Honduras national team history. The versatile midfielder was part of Honduras’ 2010 World Cup squad but did not appear in a match.
Honduras was assigned to Group E for the upcoming World Cup, along with Switzerland, Ecuador and France. Los Catrachos open group stage play against France, the 1998 World Cup Winner, on June 15 in Porto Alegre. Honduras will next face Ecuador on June 20 in Curitiba after the two countries played to a thrilling 2-2 draw at BBVA Compass Stadium last November. Honduras will complete group stage play against Switzerland on June 25 in Manaus.
Another player with an opportunity to be a part of the Honduras roster at the World Cup is Alexander Lopéz. The central midfielder will turn 22 on June 5 and is fighting for playing time in a deep and talented Dynamo midfield. Still, the skillful midfielder already has international experience under his belt, including three appearances at the 2012 Olympics in London, when Honduras upset Spain and battled Brazil in the quarterfinals. Lopéz also made five appearances (four starts) at the 2013 Gold Cup.
Several national team head coaches in recent years have elected to add a young player to the World Cup roster to gain experience for a future tournament. Perhaps Lopéz is viewed as a future national team regular by head coach Luis Fernando Suárez and gains a place in the 2014 team?
For the United States, several Dynamo players are seeking a place on the squad.
Original Dynamo midfielder and captain Brad Davis appears to have the clearest path. Houston’s all-time leader in assists, games, starts and minutes, Davis appeared in four World Cup qualifying matches last season, including a qualifying debut at Mexico in March. Davis’ qualifying highlight came in the final game, at Panama on Oct. 15, when the 32-year-old came off the bench and provided two assists in a dramatic 3-2 win that crushed Panama’s World Cup hopes while reviving Mexico’s.
In an interview with MLSsoccer.com’s Darrell Lovell, Davis explained his outlook on making the squad and the unique skillset he offers U.S. national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
Hall, 28, has been a part of the last two January national team camps and was with the U.S. squad that earned a 2-1 World Cup Qualifying win at Jamaica last June.
Bruin, 24, was also a part of the January 2013 national team camp and made his senior national team debut against Canada at BBVA Compass Stadium at the end of the camp. Bruin, who set a franchise record with 16 goals in all competitions in 2012, was also a part of the U.S. team that won the CONCACAF Gold Cup last summer.
Clark holds perhaps the most decorated international resume in Dynamo history. The midfielder started four games at the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa, when the U.S. beat Spain 2-0 in the semifinals and pushed Brazil in the final before falling 3-2. A year later, Clark started two games at the 2010 World Cup as the U.S. won its group before falling to Ghana in the Round of 16. Now 31, Clark is coming off a season in which he set career-highs in goals (4) and assists (4) and was voted Dynamo Players’ Player of the year by his teammates.
Ashe, 27, was part of the 2013 Gold Cup squad and was named to his second MLS All-Star team last season.
Another player seeking to make his mark with the U.S. team is Kofi Sarkodie. The 22-year-old was named Dynamo Defender of the Year and earned Ironman of the Year honors last season after starting 33 of 34 regular season games and making 44 starts in all competitions. After regular experience with the U.S. youth national teams, including the U-23s, Sarkodie will hope to break into the senior team in 2014.
Countdown to Kickoff on March 8:
10 days: The Pulp, On location in Charleston, S.C.
11 days: The Pulp, 2014 Dynamo preview
12 days: Several milestones and records within reach for Houston Dynamo veterans in 2014