Andres Perea Granted Permission to Represent United States

Andres Perea is switching (international) sides

The 20-year-old professional soccer player and Orlando City SC midfielder has been granted a one-time switch from Colombia to represent the United States.

Andres Perea

Perea, a Tampa, Florida native, moved to Colombia at an early age, rising through the club ranks at Atletico Nacional. He went on to represent Colombia at the FIFA U17 World Cup in 2017 and U20 World Cup two years later before joining Orlando City on loan last season.

Perea, who’s at the January camp with the U-23 U.S. men’s team, received the news on his switch from senior side coach Gregg Berhalter. Because Perea played for Colombia in official competition, Perea wasn’t able to take part in the USMNT‘s 6-0 win against El Salvador last December.

“It was a very important decision for me. Colombia is my country as well, but it’s an honor for me to represent the United States as I did Colombia in the past,” Perea said.

The players of the U23 side — which will represent the U.S. at the Tokyo Olympics this summer — are training alongside 12 members of the senior group in Bradenton, Florida, with reports of a friendly match against Serbia in the works.

“Andres we find to be a really, really interesting holding midfield player for us,” U.S. U23 coach Jason Kreis said during a conference call. “The amount of ground that he’s capable to cover defensively, I think it’s a little bit different level than some of the other guys that we have in our pool. His processing of the ball, he’s still learning a little bit about that.”

Kreis anticipates men’s Olympic soccer qualifying for North and Central America and the Caribbean will take place during late March in Guadalajara, Mexico, where the CONCACAF tournament last spring was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Kreis said he anticipates it will be difficult to access top Europe-based Americans for qualifying. FIFA does not require that clubs release players to under-23 teams. FIFA extended the age limit by a year, keeping the group for qualifying limited to players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997.

Each team reaching the games in Japan can supplement its roster with three players over the age limit. Top Americans are not expected at qualifying, with clubs expected not to make available Christian PulisicWeston McKennieTyler AdamsJoshua Sargent and Giovanni Reyna. All are regulars in league play this season.

Sergio Ramos Becomes Most Capped European Player Ever

There’s a new feather in Sergio Ramos’ cap(ped)…

The 34-year-old Spanish soccer player has become the most capped male European footballer ever, making his 177th appearance for Spain in their UEFA Nations League 1-1 draw with Switzerland on Saturday.

Sergio Ramos

But the milestone day almost turned into a nightmare as Ramos squandered two penalties in the stalemate, after not having not missed in his previous 24 attempts for either Spain or Real Madrid.

The defender — who captains both club and country — has now played one international game more than the previous record holder, former Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who retired from international duty in

Ramos is now targeting the world record held by Egypt‘s Ahmed Hassan, who played 184 games for his country between 1995 and 2012. The defender could reach that mark at next summer’s Euro 2020 tournament, if he features in all of Spain’s matches before then.

But Spain coach Luis Enrique said Ramos’s twin spot-kick misses wouldn’t affect his captain.

“Sergio’s numbers when it comes to taking penalties are in the reach of few players. If we had got a third penalty or a fourth one he would have taken them as well,” he said. “He had scored his last 25, but football has moments like this.”

The number one spot-kick taker for Real Madrid and Spain, despite being a defender, Ramos has turned penalty taking into an art in the last two years, with his last miss coming when he hit the crossbar in Madrid’s 3-2 defeat by Sevilla FC in May 2018.

He has confessed to relishing the high-stakes situation of a penalty, scoring a number of crucial spot-kicks in Real’s run to the La Liga title last season as well as netting from the spot in last month’s 3-1 win at Barcelona.

But he finally met his match in Swiss keeper Yann Sommer, who guessed the right way to parry Ramos’ first penalty early in the second half and then refused to be fooled by the Spaniard’s ‘Panenka‘ routine which has worked so well for him in the past.

“It’s a real shame that Ramos missed the penalties because he’s usually so good,” added Spain forward Dani Olmo.

“But he’s very strong mentally and I’m sure that the next time he takes a penalty he’ll score.”

Saturday’s start further entrenches a remarkable international career that began when he made his Spain debut in March 2005, coming on for Carles Puyol at half time in a 3-0 friendly win over China.

He initially featured as a right back — including at Euro 2008, Spain’s first tournament win in 44 years, and in the country’s only World Cup winning side in 2010 — before switching to centerback for their defense of the European Championship title in 2012.

Despite turning 35 next March, he has expressed a desire to feature not just at the Euros in June, but also the Tokyo Olympics, describing the possibility as “a nice idea, an event no-one would say no to.”