Wigan's Roger Espinoza: From Ohio State to the 2014 World Cup

Shaun Botterill

We are just under a month away from the start of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and Ohio State will be represented in what many believe is the greatest tournament in the world.

Every four years the World Cup takes hold of nearly everybody's attention for a month and draws in even the very casual soccer fans from around the world. This year the United States has one of the hardest roads to the knockout stage with world power Germany, Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal squad, and a Ghana team that always seems to be a thorn in the side of the Yanks on tap.

But what about when the USMNT isn't taking the pitch and you are looking for another squad to root for? We have the perfect team for you just for their inclusion of a former Buckeye on their World Cup squad, Honduras. While he only spent one year playing for the Buckeyes, Roger Espinoza had a big impact on a magical run for Ohio State back in 2007.

Espinoza was born in Puerto Cortes, Honduras and spent the first 12 years of his life there before moving to Denver. The move eventually led to Espinoza spending two years at Yavapai College, along with one season with the Arizona Sahuaros of the NPSL in 2006 before transferring to Columbus.

2007 saw Espinoza spend his junior season with the Buckeyes, and while it was his only season playing for the Buckeyes, he made it count. That year Ohio State made it all the way to the National Championship game, where Espinoza scored in the 12th-minute before the Buckeyes would eventually fall to Wake Forest 2-1. While his team lost, Espinoza left quite an impression, garnering selection to the College Cup All-Tournament Team, as well as First-Team All-Big Ten honors.

The masterful season that Espinoza had led him to declaring his intentions to go professional, and with that he was drafted with the 11th overall pick in the 2008 MLS SuperDraft by Sporting Kansas City. Espinoza debuted for his new club in April of 2008 against the D.C. United, and coincidentally enough scored his first goal in July of that same year against the Columbus Crew.

The play of Espinoza in the MLS was enough to earn him a call-up to the Honduran National Team in 2009, where he joined the squad for the UNCAF Nations Cup. Espinoza made sure to show his country he wasn't a wasted selection, scoring his first goal for his country in the 1-0 victory over El Salvador as Honduras ended up finishing in third place in the tournament.

The steady play if Espinoza in the MLS led to another big call-up for another former Buckeye, when he was tapped to represent the Honduran team in the 2012 Olympics in London. Again Espinoza was able to find the back of the net in a match against superpower Brazil in the quarterfinals, but he was also sent off in the 90th-minute as his team fell to the Brazilians.

Espinoza would be back to England sooner than he was expecting though, as he was acquired by Wigan Athletic on a free transfer during the January 2013 transfer window. Espinoza signed a two-and-a-half year deal with Wigan, who were trying to fight off relegations from one of the best soccer leagues in the world.

The Latics weren't able to stay up in the Premier League, but Espinoza notched his first goal in early May against Swansea City. While Wigan was knocked down to the Football League Championship, they did find success in England's most heralded knockout competition, the FA Cup. In May of 2013 Wigan took on English powerhouse Manchester City, and while they were heavy underdogs coming in, they were able to shock City with a goal in stoppage time to earn their first ever major trophy, and a berth in the UEFA Europa League.

Espinoza and Wigan were on the road to defending their FA Cup title during the 2013-14 season, where they made it back to Wembley Stadium. The Latics were defeated in penalty kicks by another of England's most powerful teams, and eventual champions, Arsenal. Still a very good showing for a Championship squad in a competition that is normal dominated by the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, and other high-spending top-tier teams. Along the way Espinoza notched a goal in the early January tilt against MK Dons that would end in a 3-3 draw, and Wigan would win 3-1 in the replay of the match.

Along with nearly defending their FA Cup title, Wigan was almost able to make a returning to the Premiership, but they were downed earlier this week by QPR 2-1 in the Championship League Playoff. In all competitions Espinoza accumulated 29 appearances, with his only goal coming in the FA Cup run. With relegation and losing their manager Roberto Martinez, Wigan could've been in for a tough campaign but Espinoza and his teammates put together a very solid season, and they look as they be in the thick of things this coming season to earn promotion back into the Premier League.

The role that Espinoza primarily plays on the pitch is of defensive midfielder (think Michael Carrick of England or John Obi Mikel of Nigeria). While he doesn't have consistent scoring punch, he will net a goal every now and then, but his main concern is keeping opponents of the board. A strong World Cup could see his stock rise and possibly draw some interest from some clubs around Europe. While Wigan probably wouldn't be keen on selling Espinoza, if the price is high enough the Championship League squad might have no choice to sell, as funds in the Championship are at a premium compared with Premier League counterparts.

Honduras is part of Group E in next month's World Cup, along with Switzerland, France, and Ecuador. While France and Switzerland might look like the favorites in this group, anybody could move on from this group. France, who Honduras will kick off against first on June 15th at 3:00 pm ET, has been very inconsistent in national competitions over the last number of years, and while they have the talent to move on it all depends on which team decides to show up. Honduras has a strong defense and will look to grind teams out with a strong defense, so points will be at a premium in the group so as long as they don't drop three points to any squad the Hondurans will have a quality shot at moving on to the knockout stage.

No matter the results of the United States and Honduran teams, the World Cup is one of the best events in sports. It helps this year that with the tournament being held in Brazil the start times are a little more normal for Americans compared with the last two World Cups, which were held in South Africa and Germany. Maybe Espinoza will be able to net a goal or two during the competition, but even if not fellow Buckeyes should be proud that one of their own will be included in one of the best tournaments in the world.

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