Great job from Soccer America writer Paul Kennedy to remind us of Olympic opportunities lost for U.S. Soccer, using Honduras and Roger Espinoza to connect the dots.
Espinoza is having a terrific season for Sporting Kansas City, having taken some of the brute force out of his game, replacing it with a little more two-way acumen and ability out of the midfield. Graham Zusi still gets lots of love for making the SKC midfield go, but Espinoza has been the more influential figure this year in my mind.
Now he’s doubled or tripled his value with impressive Olympic performances, including another one in the quarterfinal loss to Brazil. Lightning in a bottle? Perhaps. And perhaps he couldn’t duplicate these passionate performances over a long haul with a larger European club.
The point is, he might just get the chance to prove otherwise, to show that his brilliant, overall 2012 campaign is no fluke. Someone in Europe might just bite, supplying Espinoza with the opportunity to grow his game, which eventually benefits Honduras’ national team.
That Espinoza and Honduras have this opportunity rather than the United States traces back to the Olympic qualification fiasco back in March. Here’s what U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann said last March about the Olympic opportunity lost, right after the U.S. elimination.
It’s getting even more difficult because they do not have the jumping board, or I called it a trampoline, of the Olympics. 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?”