KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The next World Cup is still two years away, but Roger Espinoza is already working toward what he hopes will be a second straight appearance on the game’s biggest stage – and the Sporting Kansas City midfielder likes Honduras’ chances of being in the field for Brazil 2014.
“We have a good core of players that were in the last World Cup, and hopefully it works out again,” Espinoza told MLSsoccer.com earlier this week. “We’re confident.”
Espinoza will leave KC to join Los Catrachos on Monday, a day after Sporting’s home match against the San Jose Earthquakes (4:30 pm ET, NBC Sports Network, LIVE CHAT on MLSsoccer.com). Honduras have qualifying matches against Panama on June 8 and Canada on June 12, and Espinoza also will be available for a tune-up friendly against El Salvador on June 2.
The midfielder has 23 caps and three goals for his country, starting two matches in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and helping Honduras reach the semifinals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2011. But while he has become a fixture for his national side, Espinoza said he never takes the call-ups for granted.
“Every time I get called up to the national team, it’s something that makes me really proud, makes me work harder,” he said. “Every time I get called, it means something good is happening, I’m doing good things – and just being there is a great experience.”
The fifth-year pro has earned the call-ups, Sporting manager Peter Vermes said, and has continued to improve since his 2010 World Cup experience.
“Roger reads the game very well,” Vermes said. “He gets stronger as the game goes on physically. I don’t mean that he’s kicking people. I mean his endurance, his stamina, his ability to keep going. His timing to win the ball back and then start us on the counter has been fantastic. I think he has realized he has that quality, and he has gotten so much better at reading the game.”
Espinoza also came into this season with a renewed emphasis on fitness, knowing he would play a significant role for his club and hoping to do the same for his country.
That hasn’t gone unnoticed by Vermes, who called Espinoza one of the engines that drives Sporting’s high-pressure game.
“He comes here every day, and he’s one of the hardest workers on this field every day,” Vermes said. “He has grown in a lot of ways, and the biggest way is his maturity. It’s really him understanding he’s a professional, and what it takes to be one.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.