Mexico had an amazing record in World Cup qualifying matches until a week ago. Invariably playing their home matches in front of 100,000 fans at the magnificent Aztec Stadium in Mexico City they had lost only one out of 77 such matches.
The ‘Catrachos’ of Honduras were to pull off the shock result of the CONCACAF qualifiers with a 2-1 away win. A large part of their victory came from excellent performances from a couple of midfield players well known in Wigan – Wilson Palacios and Roger Espinoza.
A familiar name in central defence – Maynor Figueroa – had helped repel the waves of Mexican attacks. New Latics signing Juan Carlos Garcia was on the bench, the experienced Emilio Izaguirre of Celtic being preferred.
Roger Espinoza played the full 90 minutes in Mexico and did the same in the next match when Honduras drew 2-2 at home with Panama, the visitors equalizing in stoppage time. As always, his performances were full of effort and determination, with no mean level of skill.
Espinoza is clearly a key player for his national team. However, he has been low down in the pecking order at Wigan since Owen Coyle’s arrival. Given the injury problems that Latics had at the end of last season Espinoza was played out of position at left wing back. Although he originally struggled in that role he was to play with distinction in the team that won the FA Cup Final. Coyle used him in the left back position in pre-season.
Roger Espinoza is a dynamic midfield player who makes things happen. He is tenacious in the tackle, covers a huge amount of ground during a game and has good technique. His spectacular goal for Honduras against Brazil in the Olympics put him on the global football map.
Owen Coyle has surrounded himself with largely British Isles players since his arrival at Wigan. However, he revealed that he was interested in signing Espinoza while at Bolton. Having moved from Honduras to the United States when he was 14, Espinoza speaks like an American.
Espinoza is not yet the finished article. His enthusiasm is his strength, but he can be reckless in his tacking. He has a great left foot and has shown his ability to put in crosses that have led to goals. He has successfully made a major adjustment from playing for Kansas City in the MLS.
In order to get out of the Championship division Wigan Athletic need players who are not easily deterred. The opposition can be very physical and referees can let things go in a way that they would not in the Premier League.
Roger Espinoza is not easily deterred. He is exactly the kind of player to move Latics ahead.
Following James McCarthy’s departure to Everton, Coyle has been talking about finding a replacement for the Irish international. He should first look in-house. The Honduran/American deserves strong consideration.