Image: Manolo Sanchez (via sanantoniofc on Snapchat)
San Antonio FC forward Manolo Sanchez made his international debut for the Puerto Rican national team on Sunday, starting and playing 78 minutes in a 1-3 loss to the United States at Juan Ramón Loubriel Stadium in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.
Sanchez first trained with the Puerto Rico national team in December 2015, playing in an exhibition match against New York City FC on Dec. 11. After the friendly against the US, Sanchez will remain with the Puerto Rico squad for two Caribbean Cup matches.
Though he was born in Philadelphia, Sanchez’s parents are Puerto Rican, giving him the opportunity to choose between his homeland and his parents’. He says his upbringing gave him a strong connection to his Puerto Rican heritage. San Antonio FC spoke to him Tuesday about getting called up and representing Puerto Rico.
Sanchez and Puerto Rico were pegged back for most of the first half, conceding two goals to the US. They halved the deficit in the 42nd minute though via a spectacular Luis Betancur strike made possible by a careless US turnover in defense.
Puerto Rico came right out of the gates in the second half though, and Sanchez was heavily involved. He nearly notched his first international goal in spectacular fashion –on his official debut, no less – off an Alexis Rivera cross from the left side in the 48th minute. Sanchez met the cross with a first-time volley which flashed across the goal and narrowly wide. Just minutes later, he sent a dangerous cross of his own in front of the US goal, but nobody was able to get on the end of it for Puerto Rico
Later on, Sanchez found himself with a few more chances, both at the top of the US’s 18-yard box. His first, in the 71st minute, went rather high and wide, but the second, in the 73rd minute, was a powerful low strike which forced US goalkeeper Tim Howard down to his right for a relatively routine save.
Sanchez’s impressive debut came to an end in the 78th minute as he was substituted off for Darren Rios.
That was fun. Great honor and really positive performance from the team. Also great to see the 🔝 man @MattMiazga3 looking good bro!🇵🇷🇺🇸
— Manolo (@ManoloSanche2) May 22, 2016
Sanchez has two more chances in the immediate future to represent Puerto Rico: against Grenada on June 1 as well as Antigua and Barbuda on June 4 in the Caribbean Cup. The competition determines what teams from the region will qualify for the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2017.