Costa Rica's Ronald Matarrita (white jersey) has played in 18 games for New York City FC during the 2016 MLS season thus far. (Photo: Mexsport)
NEW YORK – On August 20, for the first time in almost six weeks, defender Ronald Matarrita started a Major League Soccer game.
That was very good for him, very good for his club (New York City FC) and could be very good for his national team (Costa Rica).
Days after playing 85 minutes in a 1-0 win over the visiting LA Galaxy, Matarrita earned a call-up to Costa Rica for its World Cup qualifiers against Haiti (September 2, away) and Panama (September 6, home). A draw in either game will see the Ticos advances to the CONCACAF Hexagonal.
"I am always thinking about being called up by Costa Rica," said Matarrita, who helped set up the lone goal as David Villa put home a rebound of his shot in the sixth minute. "I try to play as best as I can when I am not with the team. It's an extra motivation to play well. I have been working so hard."
Matarrita, sidelined with a high ankle sprain, had come on as a second-half substitute in a 3-3 draw at Columbus a week earlier. He was deemed fit enough to start against LA.
"[It] was a very special game to me," said the 22-year- of the Galaxy encounter. "I was very excited. To be able to come back after a month and a half is not easy for any player.
After a start to the season that saw it go 1W-4D-3L, NYC FC has been among MLS’ hottest teams, posting a 10-4-4 record in its last 18 outings. That stretch has seen the club reach the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
"Right now, we are one of the best teams," Matarrita concluded. "There has been a drastic change from the beginning of the season to how we are now, playing together."