Alianza 1, Motagua 1
The first of three international soccer matches scheduled this fall at RFK Stadium -- each a treat for Latin American fans -- ended appropriately yesterday afternoon before an evenly divided crowd of 5,354, as Honduran club Motagua scored in the final seconds to force a 1-1 draw with El Salvador's Alianza.
The contest between Central American powers was arranged and promoted by an investment group headed by Elias Polio, a Salvadoran native who runs a local soccer league and organizes the annual Copa Taca, the area's most prestigious Hispanic tournament. According to Polio, the investors spent more than $80,000 to bring Alianza, an eight-time national champion, and Motagua, the former club of D.C. United defender Milton Reyes, to Washington. The game was promoted through the Hispanic media and through area restaurants and bodegas.
"The El Salvadoran and Honduran communities want to see teams from their country," Polio said.
Salvadoran fans will have two more opportunities this fall to cheer for their countrymen at RFK, as Aguila, another professional club, plays D.C. United on Oct. 26. Three weeks later, on Nov. 17, the Salvadoran national team will visit RFK to play the United States in the Americans' first full international since the World Cup quarterfinal loss to Germany.
The crowd yesterday was treated to a spirited, wide-open game filled with scoring chances. One of the best opportunities of the first half fell to Motagua forward David Castellanos, a Fairfax native who just missed a short volley in the 12th minute. Born to Honduran parents, Castellanos moved to Philadelphia when he was 8 years old. He starred for two years at the University of Connecticut, where he won a national championship in 2000 as a junior, and is two classes short of a sociology degree. Unable to find work in Major League Soccer, Castellanos moved to his parents' homeland last spring and signed a lucrative one-year deal with Motagua. He said he hopes to play in the United States next year.
"I've been away for three months. Landing at the airport was a good feeling," Castellanos said. "It's good to be back in your country. I was excited about today."
Another player with American ties, Alianza's Elias Montes, opened the scoring in the 80th minute with a 16-yard blast. Montes played two seasons with the minor league Boston Bulldogs before transferring back to Alianza in 2001. Motagua, a 10-time Honduran champion, pressed for the equalizer and was rewarded in the final seconds, as reserve forward Marlon Nolasco settled a corner kick and scored from close range.