Venegas’ Costa Rica, Copa Centroamericana connection
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Costa Rica's Johan Venegas (pictured) speaks to the media on January 9, 2017. (Photo courtesy of theFederación Costarricense de Fútbol)

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – You could say that perhaps there is no tournament closer to Johan Venegas’ heart than the Copa Centroamericana.

The forward made his Costa Rica senior debut in the 2014 edition, coming on as a second-half substitute and scoring the third goal in a 3-0 win over Nicaragua.

Three days later, Venegas netted again, helping the Ticos rally from a 2-0 deficit to earn a 2-2 draw with Panama. That strike was also a historic one as it marked Costa Rica’s 100th all-time goal in Copa Centroamericana play.

With an eye on a record extending ninth Copa Centroamericana title, Venegas was selected for the 2017 roster and he is delighted to be back with the squad after recently switching clubs from the Montreal Impact to Minnesota United. Costa Rica will open its campaign against El Salvador on Friday at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City, Panama.

“It is a point of pride to put on the red shirt once again,” said Venegas. “We want to defend these colors and once again be UNCAF champions. We have a team with good players that has the desire to do things well in order to be taken into account for future call-ups.”

Now with 30 caps and seven goals, the 28-year-old wants to impart some of his wisdom onto Costa Rica’s younger players, much like the older players did when he was a fresh face in the squad.

“When it was time, the other guys with more experienced helped me,” Venegas finished. “Now it’s up to me to guide those that are here for the first time or have not been here regularly. The most important thing is that this is a healthy group, where there is a lot of loyalty and anyone who plays will do well, which is why they were called.”

Venegas’ last goal for Costa Rica was the first in a 4-0 win over the visiting United States in a fifth-round qualifier for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying on November 15, 2016.