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Roger Espinoza jumps on Olympic trampoline
by Paul Kennedy, August 6th, 2012 12:55AM

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TAGS:  olympics, sporting kansas city

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Roger Espinoza's Olympic moment, exiting Saturday's quarterfinal against Brazil to a standing ovation at Newcastle's St. James' Park, is what Jurgen Klinsmann was talking about about when he bemoaned the USA's elimination in Concacaf qualifying in late March.

Say what you want about Olympic men's soccer -- basically an under-23 competition with only a few of the traditional powerhouses entered -- but it is still the world stage, and the epic collapse in Nashville cost young U.S. players a chance to show off.

"It's getting even more difficult because they do not have the jumping board, or I called it a trampoline, of the Olympics," Klinsmann said after the 3-3 tie with El Salvador cost it a berth in the Concacaf under-23 semifinals. "If you play in an Olympic tournament, this is a huge showcase. This is where the whole world is watching and evaluating you. So they're missing out on that now. They don't have that opportunity to really gain valuable experience in such a big competition, so they have to prove it somewhere else. Where can they prove it?"

In other circumstances, it could have been Terrence Boyd or Joe Corona or even Brek Shea or Freddy Adu out there playing the game of his life.

But, no, it was Espinoza playing for Honduras, which took the Concacaf under-23 berth the USA coveted, and scoring one goal and setting up another as the Catrachos hung with gold-medal favorite Brazil until the end when Espinoza was sent off for picking up his second yellow card.

Until now, Espinoza might be remembered around MLS for his red cards -- four in four-plus MLS seasons -- and for his sometimes chippy play.

But that is all in the past as Espinoza -- who played youth soccer in Denver and college ball at JC power Yavapai and Ohio State before moving to MLS with Kansas City -- hit the jackpot with a superb Olympic tournament that included a magnificent performance in the Catrachos' 1-0 win over Spain.

Espinoza, who moved from Honduras to Denver when he was 12 years old, wasn't a complete unknown on the international scene. After all, he played for Honduras at the 2010 World Cup.

What makes his story even more unusual is that his breakout moment came as a wild-card player, one of three players over 23 Honduras was allowed to take to the Olympics.

The 25-year-old had hoped to move abroad when his contract with Sporting KC expired at the end of the year. Before the Olympics, a move to an EPL or La Liga club would have been a pipe dream.

But now, if reports are to be believed, he'll have multiple offers to sort through with Sporting KC. Atletico Madrid, Mallorca, Sevilla, and Getafe in Spain have been mentioned, as have two EPL clubs.

No they aren't Barcelona or Real Madrid or Chelsea, but Espinoza will be able to pocket several million dollars in increased earnings over the course of his next contract than he could have made just two weeks ago.

All because he got a chance to jump on the Olympic trampoline.



13 comments
  1. Ramon Creager
    commented on: August 6, 2012 at 8:10 a.m.
    "In other circumstances, it could have been Terrence Boyd or Joe Corona or even Brek Shea or Freddy Adu out there playing the game of his life." Well, maybe. But this was a special Honduras team, who obviously had something as a team the US did not. I can't see the US U-23s fighting back against Brazil, while 1 man down. I just can't. BTW, don't forget New England's Jerry Bengston, who also had a great tournament.

  1. David Sirias
    commented on: August 6, 2012 at 11:56 a.m.
    I disagree that the USA would not have fought back against odds. American teams have heart, if anything. But in a way, you could say that none of the USA players would have received any notice regardless of their play if every game was a stinker. And I indeed think we would gave gone three and out with the defensive back line we had in place. That defesne was so bad that even a couple of overage players would not have made a difference. Yes, we played well against Mexico in an exhibition this spring. But that Mexico team was not complete. All the four teams left, along with Spain and some others that went out surpisingly, are far better all around. We are getting closer but we are still not there yet in terms of youth development. As long as the U23's rely to any meaningful extent on young pros who rarely get off the bench or don't suit up for their club teams, we are at a huge disadvantage.

  1. Ramon Creager
    commented on: August 6, 2012 at 3:43 p.m.
    David, we would have gotten killed against Brazil one man down. And we don't have an exclusive on heart, as the Catrachos demonstrated. They did CONCACAF proud. I think you hit the nail on the head with that back line. I don't know what the answer is; perhaps the coaching is a problem. For example, Caleb Porter played Perry Kitchen as a central defender. Under Ben Olsen, on the other hand, Kitchen is shining as a defensive midfielder. He is really very good there. So, did Porter play Kitchen in central defense because he had no other options? Surely not. I do think you could fix that back line with overage players. You could "borrow" any 3 of Jay DeMerit, Chris Korb (who might even have been underage for this tournament), Brandon McDonald, Dan Woolard, or any other decent experienced MLS American defender. Then you have Kitchen in the position he's naturally good at, anchoring a solid midfield.

  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: August 6, 2012 at 6:54 p.m.
    Usa's biggest problem that must be addressed before player development is and has been for a long time now is player identification and recruitment. Can you tell me that we caht find better talent in such a big population with so many different ethnicities playing th most youth soccer of any other country? Academies get first look at players and most times onlylook and they have yet to prove anything development wise. Just because they think the Academies will eventually be the place to go o get th best training or competition does not mean they are there yet or will be 100%. Let them prove themselves and then look harder there. Academies make money with wins as a sellig point. Who they develop is second. This is not the formula for National Pool Selection. Hondras has many disadvanteges when compared to Usa as do El Slvador, Guatemala and even Mexico but they seem to have a better recruitment system than Usa. That is unacceptable. These countries even take the time to recruit in Usa for payers we show little or no interest in. How can this be?

  1. Ric Fonseca
    commented on: August 6, 2012 at 8:45 p.m.
    Luis, yuou ask "how can this be?" Ignorance, xenophobia, a Euro soccer mentality, and just plain hypocricy and "blissful" ignorance!

  1. Antonio Cruz
    commented on: August 7, 2012 at 3:15 a.m.
    God bless ESPINOZA

  1. Jack vrankovic
    commented on: August 7, 2012 at 7:10 a.m.
    @Ric: Just because a child's parent is from Europe or South America does not mean that they are going to excel at soccer. IMHO American children are not indoctrinated into soccer like the youth of other countries. It is analogous to vaccinations. If every child was exposed to soccer via TV and good coaching, the naturally gifted would reach their potential. With that being said, I am a soccer nerd and my children are exposed to soccer year round. Does that mean they are going to play at a high level? Maybe, but probably not. I just brought my children, to the Red Bulls- Seattle game. The atmosphere was pleasant, but nowhere near what is experienced in Europe. I just watched the recent Hajduk - Inter game and the atmosphere reflects that of a country who is passionate about soccer. Hajduk is a team near bankruptcy who had most of their players leave of sold last season. Fans still sang/cheered the whole game as their team was thumped. The following is a clip with English interviews towards the end. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Gkc9CIotbKY

  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: August 7, 2012 at 9:14 a.m.
    jack, Ric did not say you had to originate from Europe or South America. What he said was the obvious. Our inclinations with soccer. The style of play most clubs try to mirror, the out of country coaches we mostly hire, the type of players we tend to choose. What American children are you talking about? We have many different ethnicities in USA with different choices as the top sport we pick or are indoctrinated in. Do black people tend to pick Hockey first? I know Hispanics usually pick Soccer first in USA as it is in our blood. In Mexico you have very little organized soccer at the U8-U12 levels. That is suppose to be a disadvantage when compared to USA, in Development and Player IDentification/recruitment. They still recruit much better than us. You want to see passion for soccer in a pro game in USA?? Go to any Mexico or Mexican league team game, Like Chivas or Pumas vs anybody else. There is plenty of passion here.

  1. Ramon Creager
    commented on: August 7, 2012 at 9:45 a.m.
    Luis hit on a lot of things, but another one is this. In the USA, most if not all of our youth development systems are "pay to play." And they can be fairly expensive for a player to join. This unfortunately weeds out a lot of our population, perhaps even the majority. Look at the demographics of our WNT, for example. Most, if not all of those players are from a middle to upper-middle class background; i.e. their parents could afford the "pay to play" model. Look at Honduras' own Andy Najar as a good counter example of this: he came out of DCU's player academy, which I understand is not pay-to-play. Could he or his family have afforded pay-to-play leagues? If not, he would have been weeded out of our development system where it not for DCU's academy.

  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: August 7, 2012 at 10:03 a.m.
    Ramon, great ppint but there are plenty of Hispanic leagues where everybody pays just league fees with plenty of good volunteer coaches. This is where Academies recruit from or their best players but dont get all of them. The problen here still falls on recruiting by U.S.S.F. since they dont go to these leagues. They look mostly only at Academy players where it is pay to play. Thats who they are giving the credebility to. If these usa scputs looked at these low incpme leagues fpr players for raw talent dpnt you think that Acadmies would have tp adjust prices and structure to better accmodate low income families? Its a business for all and the money source are parents.

  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: August 7, 2012 at 10:16 a.m.
    Rampn, look at Alianza events in Usa where they bring several mexican club scouts to look at mostly Hispanic low income league players and take many back to Mexico. My son went tp this event in Chicago 1 month ago and was coached by the U15 Meican Natoonal Cpach!! This is free for tryots. The tournament they run at the same time is about $200 a team. I did not see pne American or U.S.S.F. scout there this year or last year. Why would a vastly superior, in all age levels, country like Mexico show such interest in these type of evnts and Usa does not at all? I would like to see Usa keep its better players here.

  1. Ramon Creager
    commented on: August 7, 2012 at 10:47 a.m.
    Luis, yes, if they fail to turn over every stone they will fail to field a good team. I've always been critical of the USSF's way of finding talent. I think it's fundamentally broken. One of Klinsmann's stated goals upon taking over the senior program was to change this. Maybe this will change over time under his influence. Who knows?

  1. Jack vrankovic
    commented on: August 7, 2012 at 4:30 p.m.
    It is less than ideal, but you can train for free at some of places like the Red Bulls. I know that this happens at later ages, but kids in remote villages around the world play, without professional coaching at younger ages. Look at the Serbo-American Subotic. He barely played in the American youth system, but is a starter for Dortmund and Serbia. Honestly, IMHO if America had the passion that the rest of the world has, everything else would fall into place.


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