MLS this week: Costa Ricans punch (early) ticket to Russia
By ANNE M. PETERSON
Despite the U.S. national team's absence, Major League Soccer will have plenty of representatives at the World Cup, especially on the Costa Rican team.
Costa Rica has six active MLS players on its roster who are slated to go to Russia. Costa Rica's coach, Oscar Ramirez, wasn't messing around and went straight to his final roster , even though teams were only required to submit provisional rosters of 35 players this week. Final 23-man rosters aren't due until June 4.
"It is a group of boys with more experience, completed with the excitement of players who have not been in a World Cup, plus a tactical aspect," Ramirez said at a press conference Monday in announcing his decision.
Other teams also released final rosters, although they still are officially considered preliminary until the June deadline. Panama has seven current MLS players on its 35-man provisional roster, which will be whittled down.
Costa Rica has been to four World Cups, most of any Central American nation. At the 2014 tournament in Brazil, Los Ticos went to the quarterfinals but were defeated by the Netherlands on penalties.
The roster includes Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas and the six MLS players: forward Marco Urena from LAFC, defender Francisco Calvo from Minnesota United, defender Ronald Matarrita and midfielder Rodney Wallace from NYCFC, midfielder David Guzman from the Portland Timbers and defender Kendall Waston from the Vancouver Whitecaps.
"Personally, I am extremely happy. It's my second World Cup - I worked very hard and expected to be called in and earn a spot on the final list," Urena said. "We know the responsibility that we have after what we achieved in Brazil. It's going to be a big test for us, but we have a group with a lot of World Cup experience and that will help us. I have no doubt that Costa Rica will have a great tournament."
Waston was at practice with the Whitecaps in Vancouver when the roster announcement was made, so he was unaware that it was official. The team brought out his wife and son as a surprise at the end of practice when Carl Robinson made the announcement to the team.
"It's a huge accomplishment. I think I feel very happy, very proud. A lot of emotions are going on at this moment because in my mind I remember four years ago it was a different feeling. Now I can enjoy this moment. ... It was a lot of great feelings," Waston said.
The Costa Rican team opened its pre-World Cup camp Tuesday with available players at the Fedefutbol-Plycem Sports Complex. The first day of official training camp for the teams is May 28, with the kickoff match in Russia set for June. 14.
THE REST OF THE LIST: Here are the rest of the MLS players who made provisional rosters for the World Cup: Columbus Crew midfielder Cristian Martinez, Houston Dynamo defender Adolfo Machado, Red Bulls defenders Fidel Escobar and Michael Murillo, Earthquakes defender Harold Cummings and midfielder Anibal Godoy and Sounders defender Roman Torres for Panama; LAFC defender/midfielder Steven Beitashour for Iran; LAFC defender/midfielder Omar Gaber and Orlando City defender Amro Tarek for Egypt; LAFC forward Carlos Vela and LA Galaxy forward Giovani dos Santos and midfielder Jonathan dos Santos for Mexico; Portland Timbers midfielder Andy Polo and Orlando City midfielder Yoshi Yotun for Peru; Sounders midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro for Uruguay; and Sounders defender/midfielder Gustav Svensson for Sweden.
MATCH OF THE WEEK: The New York Red Bulls, winners of three straight, including last weekend's 2-1 victory at Colorado, visit Atlanta United on Sunday. Atlanta is in first place in the Eastern Conference and coming off a 2-1 victory at Orlando City. It was United's fourth road win this season. United goalkeeper Alec Kann said he expects the Red Bulls to be another pressing team that will be "organized and try to stop us from getting out on the break."
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Columbus Crew forward Gyasi Zardes had three goals last week to earn Player of the Week honors . He first scored last Wednesday in the Crew's 1-0 victory at home over the Philadelphia Union then added two more (again at home) in a 3-0 win over the Chicago Fire. Zardes is now tied for the league lead for goals with eight, and Columbus is in second place in the East.
GAMBLING: MLS weighed in on the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Monday that struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which limited sports betting to four states that met a 1991 deadline to legalize it. The ruling means that all states now can adopt laws regulating sports betting, though some already have the legal framework in place.
"Although Major League Soccer is supportive of today's Supreme Court decision, we also believe that it is critical that state legislatures and other regulatory bodies work closely with the professional sports leagues in the United States to develop a regulatory framework to protect the integrity of each of our respective sports. We look forward to being a part of that process," the league said in a statement.
Updated May 16, 2018