HOUSTON – As Houston's international contingent depart to join their respective national teams, they're finding they're stepping from one pressure-packed situation straight into another.
Andre Hainault (Canada), Boniek García (Honduras) and Jamaicans Je-Vaughn Watson and Jermaine Taylor have left the MLS Cup playoff race for a week-and-a-half to join national teams that are up against it in qualifying for CONCACAF’s Hexagonal, the final round of World Cup qualifying.
Jamaica share Group 1 with the United States and, despite their landmark 2-1 win over the Yanks in Kingston last month, they find themselves on the outside looking in, currently in third place on goal differential. Heading into their final two fixtures – at Guatemala on Friday and vs. Antigua and Barbuda on Oct. 16 – there is still a feeling that they are in a good position thanks in large part to that win over the US.
"Yeah, if we’d have lost both games, it would’ve got really tough,” Taylor said earlier this week before departing to join the Reggae Boyz. “… We’re in third right now and we have to do whatever we have to do in Guatemala. Our result has to be positive. It has to be a draw or a win. We can’t take a loss because that will set us back.”
While Taylor and Watson are chasing history by attempting to become the first Jamaican squad to get to the World Cup since 1998, Hainault and García could be chasing each other.
Both on seven points in Group 3 – Honduras are in second over Canada by goal differential – Los Catrachos will travel to do battle with group leaders Panama on Friday while Canada host Cuba at BMO Field (7:30 pm ET, Sportsnet One).
Depending on the results, the World Cup fates of both Hainault (above) and García could come down to a battle between the pair on Oct. 16.
“It’s going be a big game, but first, we have a match with Cuba,” Hainault said. “We’ve got to start there and focus there and hopefully take care of business there and hopefully set up for a good match in Honduras.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.