Roger Espinoza's Olympic moment, exiting Saturday's quarterfinal against Brazil to a standing ovation at Newcastle's St. James' Park, is what Jurgen Klinsmann was talking about about when he bemoaned the USA's elimination in Concacaf qualifying in late March.
Say what you want about Olympic
men's soccer -- basically an under-23 competition with only a few of the traditional powerhouses entered -- but it is still the world stage, and the epic collapse in Nashville cost young U.S. players
a chance to show off.
"It's getting even more difficult because they do not have the jumping board, or I called it a trampoline, of the Olympics," Klinsmann said after the 3-3 tie with El
Salvador cost it a berth in the Concacaf under-23 semifinals. "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?"
In other circumstances, it could have been Terrence Boyd or Joe Corona or even Brek
Shea or Freddy Adu out there playing the game of his life.
But, no, it was Espinoza playing for Honduras, which took the Concacaf under-23
berth the USA coveted, and scoring one goal and setting up another as the Catrachos hung with gold-medal favorite Brazil until the end when Espinoza was sent off for picking up his second yellow
Until now, Espinoza might be remembered around MLS for his red cards -- four in four-plus MLS seasons -- and for his sometimes chippy play.
But that is all in the past
as Espinoza -- who played youth soccer in Denver and college ball at JC power Yavapai and Ohio State before moving to MLS with Kansas City -- hit the jackpot with a superb Olympic tournament that
included a magnificent performance in the Catrachos' 1-0 win over Spain.
Espinoza, who moved from Honduras to Denver when he was 12 years old, wasn't a complete unknown on the
international scene. After all, he played for Honduras at the 2010 World Cup.
What makes his story even more unusual is that his breakout moment came as a wild-card player, one of three
players over 23 Honduras was allowed to take to the Olympics.
The 25-year-old had hoped to move abroad when his contract with Sporting KC expired at the end of the year. Before the
Olympics, a move to an EPL or La Liga club would have been a pipe dream.
But now, if reports are to be believed, he'll have multiple offers to sort through with Sporting KC. Atletico
Madrid, Mallorca, Sevilla, and Getafe in Spain have been mentioned, as have two EPL clubs.
No they aren't Barcelona or Real Madrid or Chelsea, but Espinoza will be able to pocket several
million dollars in increased earnings over the course of his next contract than he could have made just two weeks ago.
All because he got a chance to jump on the Olympic trampoline.