The USMNT’s campaign to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup may be at an end. But the nation’s top domestic league boasts quite a few players from other countries making contributions to their respective national sides as they look to wrap up a spot in Russia.
It’s on full display during these two make-or-break intercontinental playoff ties. The first legs of both contests, Honduras vs Australia and New Zealand vs Peru, took place on Friday. A handful of players on MLS rosters made the squads for three of the four teams in action. And almost all of them made an appearance of some sort, whether it was an outright start or coming on as a second half substitute.
MLS-Based Players Feature in 2018 FIFA World Cup Intercontinental Playoffs
Honduras 0:0 Australia
CONCACAF’s fourth place finisher and the winner of a playoff between the two third place teams from Asia’s final round groups faced off in San Pedro Sula on Friday. The Socceroos got to this point by virtue of a 3-2 aggregate win over Syria, but needed a 109th minute Tim Cahill goal in the second leg. Honduras was one of two beneficiaries of the US’ shock collapse in their final qualifier against Trinidad and Tobago. Australia looked the better team in Friday’s scoreless draw, edging out Honduras 4-1 in shots on goal. Los Catrachos have a lot of work to do if they want to make their third straight World Cup.
Five days after coming on late in the Houston Dynamo‘s 2-1 in over the Portland Timbers to cement a spot in MLS’ final four, Quioto got the start for his national team. He went the full 90 minutes but found it difficult to make much happen near Australia’s net, registering a single off-target shot. Assuming he appears in the starting XI for the return leg in Sydney, he’ll need to be better around goal.
New Zealand 0:0 Peru
You didn’t need to stay up particularly late anywhere in the US to catch this match which kicked off slightly after 10 PM ET. In contrast to the CONCACAF-AFC playoff above, both sides in this matchup featured MLS-based players. The All-Whites, ranked 122nd in the world, put up a rather spirited fight at Westpac Stadium in the New Zealand capital of Wellington against a Peru side ranked number 10. But La Blanquirroja have to feel confident about their chances to qualify for the first time since 1982 with this series now headed to Lima.
Marinovic signed with the Vancouver Whitecaps in the summer transfer window and eventually supplanted David Ousted as the starter. The Auckland native started three of the club’s final four games and all three playoff games, notching three clean sheets in that time. He went all 90 minutes for his country on Saturday, making three saves. Perhaps most importantly, he also made a huge goal-line clearance in the first half after a miscommunication between him and center back Winston Reid.
— dave (@Destaquito2) November 11, 2017
Colvey’s seen limited MLS minutes since the San Jose Earthquakes took him in the third round of the 2016 SuperDraft. His only game action this season came while on loan with USL’s Reno 1868 FC. Against Peru, the 23-year-old fullback exhibited exceptional work rate, leading the team with five tackles and 54 passes.
The Timbers signed Tuiloma in July from French club Olympique Marseille. He has yet to see first team minutes, instead making 11 appearances with Timbers 2 in USL. The 22-year-old started Friday’s game on the bench but came on in place of Marco Rojas in the 78th minute.
Like Marinovic, Yotún arrived in MLS during the 2017 summer transfer window, signing with Orlando City SC. The 27-year-old started and played all but the final two minutes of regulation in Wellington for Peru. He finished with the third highest number of passes and completed 93.3 percent of them, tied with Miguel Trauco for best on the team.
After returning from injury in the summer, Reyna burst onto the scene as one of the Whitecaps’ most potent attacking weapons. He registered five goals and four assists in the final half of the season as Vancouver emerged as one of MLS’ hottest teams down the stretch. Against the Kiwis, Reyna made the bench but didn’t see any action.