Oscar Ramirez will name his 23-man roster for the World Cup on Monday. I’m naming mine today.
Here is Costa Rica’s projected squad, along with who should be going instead.
Projected: Keylor Navas, Leonel Moreira, Patrick Pemberton
Preferred: Keylor Navas, Leonel Moreira, Patrick Pemberton
At this point, can you even name a third goalkeeper worth taking?
It took a while — and quite a few errors at that — but Pemberton has returned to form between the posts. The 36-year-old statue missed most of the Clausura with an injury to his right hand. He regained his place in the starting lineup at the close of the regular season, just not to much fanfare.
A rusty start to the Cuadrangular led to his benching against Santos. Alajuelense would go on to lose that playoff match 1-0.
Since then, a revitalized Pemberton propelled the club to three consecutive victories.
Adonis Pineda is the future goalkeeper of Alajuelense and maybe even La Sele, but you can’t justify taking him to Russia. Pemberton earned his spot. It just better be behind Moreira, should Navas go down to injury or suspension.
*knocks on wood*
Projected: Francisco Calvo, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Oscar Duarte, Kendall Waston, Johnny Acosta
Preferred: Francisco Calvo, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Oscar Duarte, Kendall Waston, Kenner Gutierrez
There’s no value in bringing a 34-year-old, 5’9” center back to a World Cup, but Machillo is loyal to his guys. Acosta can defend in wide areas, as well as organize the back line as a sweeper.
He’s just old, not good in the air and slow as fuck.
Didn’t stop him from being confirmed as a call up, though.
Gutierrez isn’t exactly the patron saint of defending, but he’s a useful fifth option. Especially in set-pieces. He’s proven to be a stabilizing figure in Alajuelense’s back line and can be versatile in defensive midfield roles if needed.
He just won’t get the chance to prove it in Russia.
Projected: Cristian Gamboa, Ronald Matarrita, Bryan Oviedo, Ian Smith
Preferred: Cristian Gamboa, Ronald Matarrita, Bryan Oviedo, Ian Smith
Jose Salvatierra was guaranteed a roster spot not 48 hours ago. Now, the 28 year old will miss out with a knee injury. Admittedly, this may be a blessing for Costa Rica.
Just not for Salvatierra.
The injury forces Machillo’s hand. Smith doesn’t have the experience, nor the trust that Salvatierra has, but he has the pace and quality to be a serviceable backup for Gamboa. Jens Gustafson — Norrköping’s sporting director — thinks he has it all to be in one of Europe’s top leagues.
His minutes will be limited. Push come to shove, there’s even the possibility that Machillo turns to Oviedo or Acosta to fill in on the right side. But Smith should and will have the opportunity to gain invaluable World Cup experience.
Projected: Celso Borges, David Guzman, Yeltsin Tejeda, Ulises Segura
Preferred: Celso Borges, David Guzman, Yeltsin Tejeda, Wilmer Azofeifa
I don’t know why, but you get the sense Machillo will find a place for Segura on this roster. It could be out wide in place of Bolaños, but that’s a hard move to justify. It’s easier to fit him in midfield centrally behind Guzman, Tejeda and Borges.
Unfortunately, it comes at the expense of Azofeifa.
At 23, he’s as technically gifted a central midfielder there is in the pool. He’s been at the forefront of Santos’ domestic and CCL runs the last two seasons.
Azofeifa deserves to be on this roster and leaving him out will be the biggest mistake Machillo can commit.
Projected: Joel Campbell, Bryan Ruiz, Christian Bolaños, Daniel Colindres
Preferred: Joel Campbell, Bryan Ruiz, Christian Bolaños, Johan Venegas
Six weeks ago, when Bolaños left with a fracture in his ankle, there was a real possibility he’d miss the World Cup. It didn’t help that he was already left out of the national team in March.
Six weeks later, he’s ready to claim what’s rightfully his.
The real intrigue is in the fourth spot. Machillo clearly favors Venegas, but as a center forward, not a winger. Moving him to his more natural position — one he favors at the club level — opens an all-important spot at center forward.
More on that later.
It just won’t happen. Colindres is the most obvious choice, just not the preferred one at 33. This could also be the place where Segura falls, but Machillo would find himself with very little width making that decision. You can only rely on your wingbacks so much.
Especially with the physical demands of a World Cup.
Projected: Marco Ureña, David Ramirez, Johan Venegas
Preferred: Marco Ureña, David Ramirez, Ariel Rodriguez
Ariel Rodriguez deserves to be at the World Cup. Ariel Rodriguez deserves to be at the World Cup. Ariel Rodriguez deserves to be at the World Cup. Ariel Rodriguez deserves to be at the World Cup. Ariel Rodriguez deserves to be at the World Cup. Ariel Rodriguez deserves to be at the World Cup.
I don’t care how many times I have to say it — I wrote an entire piece on it for fuck’s sake — but it’ll always be true. But this goes back to the Acosta conundrum:
Machillo will always be loyal to his guys.
You can’t follow the Primera Division this year and not see how unjust taking Venegas over Rodriguez will be, but that will be the case.
As for Ramirez, his place was in jeopardy following a knee injury in February, but his production this Cuadrangular reminded everyone of the blistering form he was in this season. He sits on eight goals, one behind Colindres for the team lead.