It’s not uncommon for strong defensive players to have gotten their start after converting from more attacking roles.
That’s the case with Real Salt Lake defender Elias Vasquez, according to a story Friday on FIFA.com. As a youth player, he had aspirations of scoring goals for the Guatemala National Team. But after being cut from Aurora and tasked with making Comunicaciones at a tryout. Noticing that the defending group was thin of trialists, he joined that group instead of the forward group he originally intended to join. Now, just a few years later, he has 32 caps for Guatemala and is set to face Antigua & Barbuda on Friday in the third round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
“I used to be a forward and that helped me when it came to trying out as a central defender because I was always analyzing defenders, the movements they made, their thought processes and the leadership they showed on the pitch,” Vasquez said in the story here.
In his first season with Real Salt Lake, the 23-year-old center back has 14 appearances in league play and three more matches in U.S. Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League play. With that experience, he is looking to continue on his path with the national team, where he got his first start in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
He already helped Guatemala top Bermuda in the second round of CONCACAF’s qualifying tournament for the World Cup, 1-0 back in June. Now with Antigua & Barbuda on the schedule for a two-game, aggregate-goal series on Friday and Monday, the path to the World Cup is set for a team looking to reach the tournament for the first time.
“We know we have to get through, no matter what. If we get knocked out here, it’ll be a failure to all intents and purposes and a step back for Guatemalan football. It’s up to us to keep our World Cup dream alive. The objective is very clear and we’ll be giving our all on the pitch to make it a reality,” Vasquez said. “We’re not underestimating our opponents. We know it will be tough and we know we have to be fully focused on the job. We’re going out there with the aim of succeeding and making it to the next round.”
Friday’s match kicks off at 6:05 p.m. MT. In addition to Vasquez and Guatemala, RSL will also have Demar Phillips suiting up for Jamaica against Nicaragua on Friday and Monday.