Centroamericana Cup heavy on MLS talent, light on goals
SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica — It was an MLS-accented evening in Central America on Sunday, as Costa Rica topped Honduras in a game heavily influenced by players based in North America.
Behind the lively wing play of the Portland Timbers’ Rodney Wallace and the active presence up front of Álvaro Saborío, the Ticos showed offensive impetus that had been generally lacking throughout the 10-day Copa Centroamericana tournament.
“Today was our best game,” said Saborío, who captained his nation throughout the tournament. “It was the best game yet for Costa Rica. We ended up champions and we should be judged by that.”
On the other side, the high-octane Honduran offense led by New England Revolution forward Jerry Bengtson, Seattle Sounders midfielder Mario Martínez and Houston Dynamo livewire Boniek García found the spaces crowded and the going difficult against the host nation.
Try as they might, though, Honduras’ dynamic MLS trio just couldn’t find a way past the Ticos backline.
“We knew that it was going to be a tough game, a hard game,” Bengtson said. “It’s the Copa and we did everything we could to try to win the game, but we couldn’t score.”
Low scoring was a general theme at the Copa Centroamericana this year. After scoring in the opener against El Salvador, Bengtson didn't find the net again despite seeing several golden chances throughout the following rounds.
The tournament’s leading scorer, the Columbus Crew’s Jairo Arrieta, was the only player to notch multiple goals, winning the golden boot with a grand total of two.
“It wasn’t a great tournament, it was very tight on defense,” Bengston said. “There wasn’t much open, attacking football and the teams packed it in a lot.”
The muted final performance leaves Honduras to think about what comes next – in this case, a February 6 World Cup qualifying showdown with the US in San Pedro Sula.
Both Bengston and Honduran captain and San Jose Earthquake Víctor Bernárdez will stay with the team in Honduras through qualifiers, contributing to what is likely to be significant team chemistry from a Catrachos side that will have been training together for nearly a month by the time the US set foot in Central America.
“This was a clásico and we didn’t want to lose,” Bernárdez said. “But now qualifying is coming, and it will be different. We know things didn’t go exactly the way we wanted here, but now the good part is on the way, the Hexagonal.”
The national team returns to Honduras on Monday. After a few days off, head coach Luis Suárez’s side will gather in San Pedro Sula on Friday to begin preparations for next week’s showdown with the US.