Yesterday morning, Waylon Francis was driving with his wife and Giancarlo Gonzalez was hanging out with Frankie Hejduk when each of their phones started buzzing. Social media notifications began pouring in for each of them, carrying the good news that they had been named to Costa Rica’s preliminary roster for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
It’s fitting that each player found out in a likewise fashion, since their storylines have plenty of similarities. Each is playing his first season in Columbus, and each is starring on a revamped backline that has, according to Crew Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter, elevated their stocks far enough to help them earn the prestigious nomination by Costa Rica Head Coach Jorge Luis Pinto.
Los Ticos named a 26-man preliminary roster, meaning that three cuts will be made between now and the June 2 deadline. Although both Francis and Gonzalez were honored to make the list, they know that the work is just beginning.
“When I get to Costa Rica, my main goal is to go and find a spot on the field,” said Gonzalez, who has 32 all-time caps. “We have a great coaching staff that’s going to look and see how the other teams play. In our end, as players, we have to go out there, execute, and try to win. That’s the most important thing for us.”
Francis, with just one lifetime cap to his name, was the youngest defender called up by Pinto. He will report to camp Wednesday, whereas Gonzalez will stay with the Crew through Saturday's match at Portland. Despite Francis’ relative inexperience, the Crew leftback intends to give everything he has in order to make the team.
“The point is the same: working hard like I’ve been doing here, playing my game like I’ve been doing here,” said Francis. “I want everything to transmit to the next level when I go down to Costa Rica to try to make the roster.”
The pair figures to have somewhat of an advantage due to their familiarity with one another as teammates, something that Gonzalez expressed was paramount.
“It’s very important to have other people from your own club playing for your National Team,” said Gonzalez. “Not just Costa Rica, but other countries as well.
"The only thing I can tell Waylon is to work hard. He’s been there before. Work hard on the left side, keep playing, and he’ll be able to earn a spot.”
Francis, too, has been appreciative of the support he has gotten from his teammate and beyond.
“Having [Gonzalez] has been very helpful. He’s been there; he’s played more games than I have. He’s definitely advised me on what to expect—not only him, but also close friends from back home in my own country. People have been congratulating me … I’m going to work hard to be there.”
The two have additional support here in Columbus in the form of forward Jairo Arrieta, who was named as an alternate to Costa Rica’s 26-man roster. Although the veteran reinforced that he plans to keep his head up and work hard whether he is plying his trade for his club or his country next month, he also said that he was thrilled for his teammates.
“We’re great friends. We did talk; I congratulated them,” said Arrieta. “I’m very happy and excited for them. Giancarlo and Waylon, they’re great players. They’re going to go out there and work hard.”