FRISCO, Texas – When FC Dallas hit the road this weekend to take on Sporting KC, a key piece of the left side will be missing.
Midfielder Carlos Rodríguez will be representing his country, Panama, in the upcoming CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament and is scheduled to leave the club on Tuesday. He will return to FC Dallas at the conclusion of the tournament, which runs March 22 to April 2, or possibly earlier should Panama fail to make the semifinals.
“It’s a responsibility that I see as a big deal because you’re representing your country,” Rodríguez said. “What you want to do is give your best self so you can satisfy your country. “
Rodríguez has lofty goals set for the tournament but knows the road to the championship will be difficult to navigate. Panama open the tournament on Friday against Honduras at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
“We hope to have a good team,” Rodríguez said. “We just hope to get out of the first round, and we want to do our best so that happens. There are really strong teams in this tournament like Mexico and the United States. They’re probably the favorites, but we also have a really good chance to qualify.
“The selection team is a lot like a family. We’ve known each other since we were little kids. We don’t really have any problems on or off the field, so when we get together we feel like a family.”
The 21-year-old defender joined FC Dallas this season after a one-year stint with Tauro FC. Prior to making the transition to Major League Soccer, he participated in three friendlies for the Panamanian national team. Rodríguez explained that balancing the two will not be a problem.
“You have two commitments. You have your commitment with your team, and you have your commitment to the national team,” Rodríguez said. “Wherever I’m at, whether I’m here at FC Dallas or in Panama with my national team, I’m going to do my best self for my team and do whatever the coach tells me to do. “
In his season debut with FC Dallas, Rodríguez came in as a sub and performed well enough to earn a start against Portland last weekend. Rodríguez believes what he’s learned during his time with the club will help him bring a new skill set to his national team.
“It’s great for me because soccer is really fast. That’s going to help me. I think my coach is going to like that,” Rodríguez said. “The soccer here is just faster and more physical. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m going to show that with the national team.”