The Guatemalan teenager who destroyed the United States’ chances of qualifying for the Under-20 World Cup is no stranger to American soccer.
Henry Lopez, who scored the go-ahead goal in a 2-1 upset at the CONCACAF qualifying tournament in Guatemala City, settled in Manassas with his family, played for Osbourn High School last season and honed his skills with the Rockville-based Real Maryland youth program.
Lopez, 18, is not a U.S. citizen and therefore ineligible to play in the American program. But the fact that a player with U.S. ties contributed to Guatemala’s victory added insult to injury for an American squad that failed to advance to the U-20 World Cup for the first time since 1995.
“I’m very sad for the U.S., but I’m happy for Henry,” said Silvino Gonzalo, who coaches Real Maryland’s senior team in the Premier Development League, the fourth tier of U.S. soccer. “I was listening to the radio this morning and heard his name. I was hoping he would have an opportunity. I want the best for him.”
Lopez scored past former University of Maryland goalkeeper Zac MacMath in the 68th minute of the quarterfinal match, snapping a 1-1 tie. He left the game 12 minutes later. The four semifinalists earned berths in this summer’s U-20 World Cup in Colombia; Guatemala is going for the first time.
Lopez and his family came to the United States about three years ago, Gonzalo said. Lopez’s father introduced him to Real Maryland coaches, and Henry went on to star on the club’s under-17 team for two years in the Super Y-League, an elite youth circuit.
“To see him succeed, it’s a proud moment for our club,” Real Maryland General Manager David Noyes said. The club was founded in 2007 and, in addition to the PDL squad, runs several teams for boys and girls ages 13 to 17.
As a junior at Osbourn last spring, Lopez made the Virginia AAA state honorable mention list. In the summer, he and several other Real Maryland amateurs spent about a week training with Spanish club Sporting Gijon. The two teams have a working relationship.
Gijon was interested in offering Lopez a contract to play for the reserve team but paperwork issues got in the way, Gonzalo said. In February, after dropping out of school, Lopez signed with Noroeste Bausu, a low-level club in Brazil’s Sao Paulo state competition.
Aware of him since last year, the Guatemalan soccer federation named him to the CONCACAF qualifying roster. In group play, Lopez played every minute of Guatemala’s 2-0 victory over Jamaica and 3-1 loss to Honduras, results that set up the quarterfinal against an undefeated U.S. team featuring several pros based in Europe and MLS.
Having clinched a World Cup berth, Guatemala will turn its attention to winning the regional championship. The Chapines will play Costa Rica on Friday, and with a victory, would face Mexico or Panama in Sunday’s final.