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ESPINOZA TO DRAW ON U.S. CUP EXPERIENCE

Espinoza against Jack Hunt in FA Cup fifth round against Huddersfield Town

PUBLISHED

09:37 7th March 2013

by Nick Taylor

Honduran midfielder wants to use his happy memories of US Open Cup in Latics’ FA Cup campaign.

In August 2012 Roger Espinoza claimed his first professional football medal as Sporting Kansas City beat Seattle Sounders FC in a penalty shootout following a 1-1 draw after 90 minutes and extra time.

There was pain for the 26-year-old before relief and elation as Espinoza took the second penalty for SKC but had it saved, only for his side to clinch the cup with the last spot kick as Paulo Nagamura made it 3-2.

He said that the penalty miss was character building:

“After I’d taken the penalty it was mentally tough for me because we could have lost the game.

“Winning the game was a relief after missing but if I got the chance to take another penalty I would do it again.

“I stepped up with a strong mentality but the keeper guessed right and I didn’t hit the ball the way I would have liked.

“Hopefully we won’t be in that situation and we can win our cup games in 90 minutes.”

Espinoza added that his team mates have been interested in his cup success:

“I’ve been asked a couple of times by some of the players and staff here about winning the cup and it’s great to share my experiences, especially with the cup run that we are on.

“The feeling that day was amazing because at professional level I hadn’t won anything before then.

“It was one of my proudest moments in football.

“If we could get to Wembley it would be such an amazing experience for everybody at the club and also a really proud moment.”

The January signing also believes that there are some distinct similarities between the FA Cup and the US Open Cup in terms of the rewards that can follow.

Espinoza added:

“They take the cup very seriously in the US, at first when I was a professional it wasn’t as competitive but now everybody is really determined to win the cup.

“If you win the US Open Cup you get a free pass to go and play in the CONCACAF Champions League so winning has become really serious for every team.

“That’s very similar to the FA Cup here and teams take it so seriously because if you win it not only do you get the glory of winning such a historic cup but you get to play in the Europa League the next season.

“Everybody wants to compete at that level and it is a great incentive to perform well and push ourselves as far as possible this season.”

Everton will be Latics’ first Barclays Premier League opponent in the competition this season, having seen off League One AFC Bournemouth, Blue Square Premier Macclesfield Town and in the last round the Championship’s Huddersfield Town.

Espinoza believes that facing teams from divisions below Latics in previous rounds has set them up well for the quarter final clash.

“I think our victories in previous rounds have shown that we are ready to face anything and we have been building up our strength.

“The excitement to go far in the cup is huge here because there’s a good mix of teams left from the Championship and Premier League which makes it really competitive.”

The Honduran made another comparison between the US Cup and the FA Cup by saying:

“In the US teams outside of the MLS tend to do quite well in the cup and it is the same in the FA Cup because if you fall asleep as a team then you’re going to get punished.

“Everyone that enters the cup wants to go far in it and that has happened quite a few times in US when teams from lower down have beaten the tops sides and history has shown that it happens all the time in the FA Cup.”

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