El Salvador secured qualification for the 2017 Gold Cup with a third-placed finish in January's Copa Centroamericana. Now head coach Eduardo Lara must turn attention to building a squad to compete at CONCACAF's summer showpiece, and he has let it be known he is interested in bringing three American-born players into his squad.
Defender Eriq Zavaleta, currently contracted to Toronto FC, forward Joshua Perez, attached to Fiorentina, and Tijuana's Amando Moreno are the three in question. Lara is the primary source for the story that he is courting the players, as reported by El Grafico and La Prensa Grafica,
Eduardo Lara, DT de El Salvador, tiene en la mira a 3 jugadores estadounidenses:— Víctor Zaferson M. (@VZaferson) February 2, 2017
Eriq Zavaleta, 1992
Amando Moreno, 1995
Joshua Pérez, 1998
Moreno is the reason El Salvador's national team might get a little more interesting to New York Red Bulls fans. The RBNY Academy product signed a Homegrown Player contract with the Red Bulls in 2012, but bounced to Tijuana in 2014 after finding playing time limited in a squad focused heavily on winning something of consequence while Thierry Henry was still part of the team.
In three seasons in Tijuana, Moreno has featured regularly in Copa MX games, but got his first taste of Liga MX last year. The 21-year-old got fleeting US Men's National Team attention on Jurgen Klinsmann's watch, but seems an unlikely candidate for a cap during Bruce Arena's must-win run through USMNT's remaining World Cup qualifiers.
Like Zavaleta and Perez, Moreno has been a US youth international, but would still be eligible to make a switch over to El Salvador if so inclined. The pitch to all three players would seem to be clear: Klinsmann's ceaseless experimentation with USMNT is over, Arena has a clear priority and obligation to focus on a seasoned squad that will get the team to the next World Cup; by the time the USA is ready to look into expanding its player pool again, it will be late 2018. By that time, Zavaleta, Perez and Moreno might have played a Gold Cup for El Salvador and be part of a squad readying itself for the 2022 World Cup qualification cycle.
And regular international soccer has a way of raising a player's profile.
Incidentally, the RBNY connection does not stop with Moreno. La Prensa quotes Salvadoran soccer exec Hugo Carrillo stating that the recommendation to scout the Xolos forward came from Juan Carlos Osorio - current Mexico head coach and in charge of the Red Bulls in 2008 and 2009 (when Moreno was likely too young for Osorio to pay close attention to, but he will be familiar with the former Red Bull since it became his job to scout Liga MX regularly).
It has been reported that Zavaleta has already responded positively to Lara's inquiries. Moreno and Perez may take some more persuading.
El Salvador has announced a late-March friendly against Honduran club Olimpia in Houston, which seems like an ideal opportunity to allow American born or based players to get a feel for a new national team set-up.
El Salvador National Team to Face CD Olimpia in Houston March 26 at BBVA Compass Stadium. pic.twitter.com/DxOqtbAMB1— Hincha News (@HinchaNews) February 1, 2017