[DIGICEL UNCAF CUP]
Central America's regional championship gets underway on Thursday with special attention on the three teams -- Costa Rica, El Salvador and
host Honduras -- that will compete in the final round of World Cup qualifying.
Costa Rica is the three-time defending champion of the Digicel Uncaf Cup, which will qualify five of
the seven teams for the 2009 Gold Cup.
The teams are divided into two groups -- Honduras, El Salvador and the region's two weaklings, Nicaragua and Belize, in Group A and Costa
Rica, Guatemala and Panama in Group B.
Of the three Hexagonal finalists, only El Salvador, the team that relies the least on foreign-based players, has sent close to its first team.
Mexican coach Carlos de los Cobos
added former Cal State Northridge star Edwin Miranda
, who was born in El
Salvador and raised in the Los Angeles area and now plays for the USL-1's Puerto Rico Islanders.
Honduras called up the Kansas City Wizards' Roger Espinoza
for the first time. Espinoza was born in Honduras and moved to Denver as a teenager. Other MLS players in the Catrachos' squad are D.C. United's Ivan Guerrero
, New England's Mauricio Castro
and Toronto FC's Amado Guevara
Another U.S. product, Ramon Nunez
(Dallas Texans, SMU, FC Dallas and Chivas USA in MLS), has moved to Mexico's Puebla and was not called up for
the Uncaf Cup.
Costa Rican coach Rodrigo Kenton says the purpose of the UNCAF is to evaluate players for the Hexagonal. The only Ticos called in from abroad are former MLS defender
and Carlos Johnson
from Bryne in Norway and Andy Furtado
Honduran club Marathon.