It’s officially underway! The 2018 World Cup has begun with host country Russia winning easily over Saudi Arabia by 5-0 in the inaugural match of the tournament. For most of us who don’t have strong ties to another country that is competing, it’s a sad, sad day. There will be no Star-Spangled Banner played this time around but let’s not get too distraught over that fact just yet. The least we can do is show some love for the players who will take part in the WC who play in the MLS, and more importantly, for the Portland Timbers.
There are a total of 17 players from MLS teams who will be representing their country this summer: six for Panama, five for Costa Rica, three for Mexico, two for Peru, and one for Sweden. For the Timbers, we have Andy Polo of Peru and David Guzmán of Costa Rica. Both players have featured prominently in green and gold and will now switch their focus to the group stage of the greatest sporting event in the world.
There is no easy group in the WC. Peru is in Group C with Australia, Denmark and France and Costa Rica will battle in Group E with Switzerland, Serbia and Brazil. Costa Rica were the surprise team of the last World Cup, making it all the way to the quarterfinals before losing in a shootout to The Netherlands. Peru is appearing in their first World Cup since 1982. Some “experts” have tipped them to be a surprise success but as everybody knows, nothing is easily predictable in a tournament that produces drama and surprise at every blow of the whistle.
28-year-old David Guzmán, a defensive midfielder, has been a steady presence in the starting lineup for the Timbers since the start of the 2017 season. He started his career with Costa Rican power club Deportivo Saprissa and went on to become a club legend, appearing over 200 times for the team before making the switch to the Timbers. Known mostly for his clean passing and tough tackling, he is a classic central midfielder who powers the team forward in attack and organizes them defensively. He has appeared 45 times for the Costa Rican National Team and hopefully he can make that number grow in the coming weeks.
Andy Polo, 23, was once a highly rated winger who caught the eye of Italian giants Inter Milan in 2014 while he was just 19 years old. He’s now 23 and is currently only on loan to the Timbers from Mexican side Morelia. A speedy winger with good close control, he also reads the game very well and delivers precise crosses for strikers to latch onto. With 15 appearances and a goal for Peru to his name, we hope he sees the field in Russia.
If we look past the Timbers but stay in the Northwest corner of the MLS, we have Román Torres of Panama and Gustav Svensson of Sweden who play for The Sounders and Kendall Waston of the Whitecaps who is a teammate of Guzmán for Costa Rica.
It’s every player’s dream to pull on the shirt of his/her country and take the field in a World Cup. We are all disappointed to see The United States miss out on a spot in the tournament but as Timbers fans we should get behind our two players who have been rewarded with the chance to represent their country. If it’s any small consolation, The United States along with Mexico and Canada have just been awarded the opportunity to host the World Cup in 2026. I know that’s a long way off but let’s hope by then the Timbers will have a roster full of players who will represent their countries on North American soil!