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Maynor Figueroa: “Honduras must take that next step in the Gold Cup”
The veteran DF has appeared in five editions of the tournament (2005, 2007, 2015, 2017, 2019) and is eager to compete in a sixth in 2021. Figueroa relishes every opportunity to play in a Gold Cup and is driven to help Honduras return to their first Gold Cup Final since 1991. (Photo: Mexsport/ Concacaf)
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MIAMI, Florida – With more than 160 caps under his belt with the Honduran National Team, Maynor Figueroa is no stranger to the Concacaf Gold Cup.

The veteran DF has appeared in five editions of the tournament (2005, 2007, 2015, 2017, 2019) and is eager to compete in a sixth in 2021. Figueroa relishes every opportunity to play in a Gold Cup and is driven to help Honduras return to their first Gold Cup Final since 1991.

“Personally, I feel grateful to God for having given me the opportunity to participate in several editions of the tournament, which is very important for us. It’s true that lately we have not been able to achieve big things, and so that is something that we owe to ourselves first and to our fans,” said Figueroa in an exclusive interview with Concacaf.com

“We know that in any corner of the world where Honduras goes, our fans will be there, and so we as players owe it to them. We have to take that next step in the Gold Cup. We have to prepare ourselves not just in the football aspect, but also the mental and psychological side. Having gone so much time without taking that step that we all wish for puts pressure on ourselves, and that is something that we have to know how to manage,” added Figueroa.

Figueroa could not have asked for a better debut with Honduras in the Gold Cup. In the 2005 edition at the age of 22, Figueroa hammered in a free kick for a goal to help the Catrachos earn a 1-1 draw with Trinidad and Tobago. All these years later, Figueroa can recall the goal with great clarity.

“We had been working on that play in training with Danilo Turcios and when the play got set up, without thinking, we did it. To score my first goal with the national team was very gratifying. Remembering it in this moment after so much time makes me relive it all,” said Figueroa.

Two years later in the 2007 Gold Cup, Honduras arrived into their quarterfinal brimming with confidence after posting a 2-1 win over Mexico in the group stage, however a 2-1 defeat to upstarts Guadeloupe made for a frustrating end.

“In the Gold Cup with Coach [Reinaldo] Rueda, we had that bittersweet feeling of being narrowly eliminated. It was sad because on that occasion we had very good players who were in a very good moment and not achieving anything was very frustrating. I think qualifying for the [2010] World Cup made up for it, but we can’t think that qualifying for one or two World Cups can be solace for us for not having achieved important things in a Gold Cup, so we are confident that we can do it soon,” said Figueroa.

In Gold Cup competition, Figueroa has faced the very best that the region has to offer, and counts the matches against Costa Rica as some of the most difficult. At the player level, there are two that stand out.

“There have been a lot of players that have made things hard for us. [Panama FW] Blas Perez is one that perhaps is not well seen, but he is a natural goalscorer and whenever we played against him, he made our lives difficult. I would say [United States FW] Landon Donovan is another. When he was in his prime, he was very tough,” said Figueroa.

Among his favorite places where he has played the Gold Cup, his debut in Miami’s former Orange Bowl holds a special place in his heart, as does Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey.

“My first Gold Cup was something very marvelous, so when [the Orange Bowl] existed, feeling the support of the fans was something really wonderful. It was my first experience and it was great. Also, when we played in New York we felt very good; when we played in the Red Bulls stadium there are always a lot of fans that support us,” said Figueroa.

In Figueroa’s time in Concacaf, he has witnessed the growth of the Caribbean throughout the region, thanks in large part to Concacaf’s Nations League initiative. The 37-year-old believes the rise of football in the islands is a positive for everyone.

“Those national teams from the islands have very interesting players, players who are already playing in big leagues in Europe. For some of us they might be unknown, but these are national teams that have a very good individual level. It might be tougher for them at the team level, but they certainly know how to make it difficult,” said Figueroa.

Not only has Figueroa been a regular fixture with Honduras in the Gold Cup, but he has 12 matches to his name in the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League, including four in the 2019 edition with his current club, the Houston Dynamo.

“To be able to face teams from Mexico, Costa Rica or Guatemala makes it very interesting. We [Houston Dynamo] had the chance to play a team from Guatemala [Guastatoya] and against Tigres, in which we were eliminated, but it was a good experience,” said Figueroa.

On a personal level, Figueroa counts the six matches he has played in a FIFA World Cup {2010, 2014] and his 2012 Olympic appearances as his national team highlights and is optimistic that he can be part of a Honduras team that qualifies for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Yet Figueroa also understands the importance of leaving a legacy as a leader and example for a new generation of Honduras players.

“I am of the opinion that in any team it is important to have a mix of young and experienced players and not just in my case, it could be another experienced player. We have a young generation coming that at best still has not had that experience that have won big things. I am a player that always likes to be first. I give my all in every training, even if I’m not at my best or if I’m in pain, and I always have that enthusiasm and desire. To be able to transmit that to younger players is important,” concluded Figueroa.

 
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