Anguilla's New 'Home' Is at RFK

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

El Salvador and Anguilla will play each other in a 2010 World Cup qualifier tonight, but the location of the match is neither Central America nor the Caribbean.

It is RFK Stadium.

Prevented from hosting the second leg of the two-game series because of inadequate facilities, Anguilla will play its "home" game in Washington and attempt to salvage its pride following a 12-0 away loss to the Salvadorans in January. With an enormous lead in the total-goals series, El Salvador is all but certain to advance to a second-round meeting in June against Panama.

"I must be honest and say I don't think we can win the game, let alone score 13 goals and overhaul the deficit," new Anguilla coach Colin Johnson told "But I do expect an improvement from my players this time around. We need to show some pride and that we are not just some walkover team."

Anguilla, whose land mass is half the size of the District, has been a member of soccer's international community since 1996 and is 0-4-1 all-time in World Cup qualifiers. In the latest FIFA rankings, Anguilla is tied with Bhutan at No. 199 among 207 registered nations.

RFK was chosen as the alternate site because, with a large Salvadoran community in the D.C. area, attendance might surpass Anguilla's population (13,600) and help provide the country's fledgling program with much-needed revenue. Anguilla sold the rights to the game to a Brazilian-based marketing firm. The roster includes players from the semipro domestic league and English-born players with family ties to the island who compete in the low tiers of English soccer.

El Salvador, ranked No. 128 by FIFA and seeking to qualify for its first World Cup since 1982, has three players with local connections: Eliseo Quintanilla, a former D.C. United forward; and forward Ronald Cerritos; and midfielder Dennis Alas from Real Maryland, an expansion team in USL2, the third tier of American pro soccer.

-- Steven Goff

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