Soccer will once again take center stage this summer in the United States. 16 national teams from the western hemisphere will be represented in the Copa America Centenario, being played in our country for the 1st time, marking the 100th anniversary of this legendary tournament.
South Florida will not be hosting any games, but it is serving as the pre-competition training base for one of the favorites, Colombia.
"Los Cafeteros" come into the summer with high hopes, with star players such as Real Madrid’s James Rodriguez and Juan Cuadrado of Juventus. This Sunday it’s a 5 o’clock kick off for a warm up game over at Marlins Park against Haiti.
"This game is important for our rhythm and timing. We don’t play together all year around so we need these games. A win would motivate us heading towards cup play.” said Colombia forward Roger Martinez. The 21 year old will be playing in his 1st major tournament for his national team, as they look to build a squad of veterans and youngsters, after a quarterfinal exit in the 2014 World Cup left a sour taste in their mouths.
The biggest difference with this year’s tournament is the addition of the North and Central American National teams, or CONCACAF squads. Haiti is one of those teams, but since they will not be in the Copa America, Colombia is using the opportunity to study how they play, prepping themselves for potential matchups to come.
"You can’t take any squad lightly. We are in their territory. Every team is good and we must respect them. We have to show we can play with them," said Colombia defender Santiago Arias.
Even as one of the favorites with all-star players wearing their jersey, Colombia will be enemy number one on the very first day of the cup. They open up play next Sunday June 3rd in Santa Clara, California against the United States.
"They are the hosts. We know they will come out with energy and look to get on the board first. It’ll be a tough game but I think we have everything it takes to come out with a win and challenge for the trophy," said a confident Santiago Arias addressing the media after Colombia’s training session at FIU. "We will find the style that will put us over the hump and make Colombian soccer a winner again."