The Dominican Republic poses for team photo prior to its 2012 Caribbean Cup final round game against Haiti in Antigua and Barbuda. (Photo: David Hinds)
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – The Dominican Republic Football Federation (FEDOFUTBOL) held a press conference Thursday at the Estadio Quisqueya in Santo Domingo, site of the country’s international friendly against Costa Rica on August 14.
The stadium, used traditionally for baseball, will host its first-ever international football match, after an accord was reached between FEDOFUTBOL and stadium authorities. The agreement establishes a strategic alliance that will allow the facility to be utilized for football development when there is no baseball activity.
For more than 13 years, the Estadio Panamericano in San Cristobal has been the primary venue for the Dominican Republic’s home internationals at multiple levels and age groups. According to FIFA records, the last time that Santo Domingo – the nation’s capital – welcomed the men’s national team was on June 13, 2004, when it lost 2-0 to Trinidad & Tobago at the Estadio Olimpico in a World Cup qualifier for Germany 2006.
The match against Costa Rica and its location are positive steps in the Caribbean nation’s football progression. The men’s national team has moved up to 86th in the most recent FIFA rankings, a position that is good for 9th in CONCACAF. Last year’s run to the final round of the Caribbean Cup – the sub-region’s qualifying tournament for the CONCACAF Gold Cup -- was another sign that the program was heading in an upward trajectory.
At the heart of it all, though, is the matter of players and their development. The Dominican Republic’s 21-man roster for Wednesday consists of 14 players based abroad, including Swiss-born Heinz Batmettler. The 26-year-old central defender has one cap for Switzerland, but switched his FIFA nationality last year. He recently signed with Spanish La Liga side Real Valladolid.
Jonathan Faña Farias, also 26, has been a standout in CONCACAF for more than seven years. He currently plays for Alianza in El Salvador after very successful stints with the Puerto Rico Islanders and Trinidad & Tobago’s W Connection. The forward has seven career CONCACAF Champions League goals (five for W Connection, 2 for the Puerto Rico Islanders) and has netted three times in eight all-time World Cup Qualifying matches.
Goalkeeper Miguel Lloyd is playing with Arabe Unido and helped the Panamanian side to a 3-1 win over W Connection in a CONCACAF Champions League match on Thursday.
Another player to watch is Cayetano Bonnin, who has been on the books with Spanish teams Mallorca, Real Madrid and Valencia. Though he has never played in a La Liga match, the central defender, 23, did make his full international debut for the Dominican Republic in a 3-1 friendly triumph over Haiti earlier this year.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC ROSTER
(August 14, 2013 – home v Costa Rica)
GOALKEEPERS: Wellington Agramonte (Aiglé Noir/Haiti), Miguel Lloyd (Arabe Unido/Panama)
DEFENDERS: Johan de la Cruz (Bayaguana), Cesar Garcia (Bayamón/Puerto Rico), Hansley Martínez (Aiglé Noir/Haiti), Israel Ruiz (San Cristobal), Cayetano Bonnin (Valencia/Spain), Angel Luis Milano (San Cristobal)
MIDFIELDERS: Heinz Batmettler (Real Valladolid/Spain), Rafael Flores (Tempete/Haiti), Salcedo Francisco Ubiera (Orlando Tech/United States), Jean Carlos Lopez (Moca), Carlos Julio Martinez (Villarreal/Spain), Pedro Núñez (Deportivo Pantoja), Inoel Navarro (Escuela Bauger), Kerbi Rodríguez (Moca), Jimmy Reyes (Deportivo Pantoja)
FORWARDS: Domingo Peralta (Violette/Haiti), Jonathan Fana Farias (Alianza/El Salvador), Erick Ozuna (Moca), Samuel Lustenberger (SC Scham/Switzerland)