Roger Espinoza sat in front of a computer screen in his apartment on Tuesday, hoping to find out that he would be representing Honduras in South Africa this summer.
He plopped down and waited. Then he waited some more.
“Somehow the website wasn’t working,” Espinoza said. “I didn’t find out anything until my cousin texted me.”
Espinoza refused to believe her until a newspaper in Honduras called him asking for comment on his inclusion in manager Reinaldo Rueda’s 23-man roster for South Africa.
“I was in shock,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
Espinoza’s inclusion would have come as a surprise only two years ago, when Honduras had yet to call on him and Los Catrachos’ qualification was still up in the air.
That changed 16 months ago, when he earned his first cap during the UNCAF Cup in January 2009. Espinoza scored the lone goal in a 1-0 victory against El Salvador in the third-place game of that competition and never looked back.
He went on to play in the Gold Cup, scoring against Granada, and bagged another goal in Honduras’ 3-1 victory over the US in a January friendly. Despite his 10 appearances to date, some publications labeled Espinoza’s inclusion somewhat of a surprise.
“My dream since I was little was always to be in a World Cup,” Espinoza said. “I didn’t know it was going to come this soon. But since the first day I showed up there, he [Rueda] saw that I was willing to work hard and do anything to be in the World Cup.”
After making just six starts and failing to earn a consistent spot for the Wizards last season – partly because of national-team duties – Rueda briefly called for Kansas City to loan Espinoza to a Honduran club this offseason. Wizards manager Peter Vermes shot that idea down immediately, making it clear he had plans for his team’s 11th overall draft pick in 2008.
Vermes moved Espinoza from left midfield to left back during the offseason and plugged him into the starting 11, giving him plenty of time on the field to develop and round into form for this summer. Even though it’s all happened quickly, Vermes feels Espinoza is ready for what awaits him.
It’s been that hard work – both with the Wizards and with La Bicolor – that helped the 23-year-old carve out a starting spot at left back with Kansas City this season and that expanded his game enough to convince Rueda to include him in his World Cup plans.
“I think he realizes the day in and day out approach that you have to have,” Vermes said. “Every day is another day that you have to prove yourself. You can’t think that you have reached some kind of plateau.”
Realistically speaking, Espinoza is only beginning to scratch the surface of his potential. With the promise of a full season as a key contributor for the Wizards and a part of Los Catrachos in the World Cup this summer, the Honduran is well on his way to accomplishing his childhood dreams in South Africa and bringing the confidence and experience gained there back to Kansas City.
For now, though, Espinoza will take it one step at a time – the same mindset he has relied on for the past 16 months to get to this point.
“I’m obviously a little anxious,” he said, “but I’m just trying to work hard here and be mentally prepared to help Kansas City. Then I’ll look forward to the World Cup.”