By Dylan Butler
PORTLAND, Ore. – On a squad almost exclusively composed of semi-professional players, of policemen and teachers and tour guides, Shane Orio is the exception.
The 32-year-old goalkeeper most recently competed for Honduran powerhouse Marathon after six years in Costa Rica. That makes him, in many ways, the face of the Belize national team.
On Tuesday night at JELD-WEN Field, Orio will lead Belize into uncharted waters – a first CONCACAF Gold Cup appearance against heavily favored United States. For CONCACAF official notes about this game, click here.
What the Jaguars might lack in terms of professional experience, Orio said they make up for in heart, in determination, in unity. It’s a team that has played with each other for years, on choppy grass fields in Belmopan and against mighty Mexico in Monterrey in World Cup qualifying.
“We have to be united tomorrow and work as a group,” Orio said on Monday. “No man stands alone. It’s 11 vs. 11 on the field. We believe and we have the faith we will do a good job tomorrow.”
Now, with the support of the tiny Central American nation, Belize is prepared to take on the United States in “Soccer City USA.”
“Tomorrow each and every player will give 110 percent,” Orio said. “We won’t hold back. If we need to run for 102 minutes, we will do that because at the end of the day we’re representing our people, our nation and our country.”
Ian Mork didn’t coach Belize when it clinched the berth in the Gold Cup by beating Nicaragua in the 2013 UNCAF Copa Centroamericana. But the native of Wichita, Kansas, who is also a part-time scout for U.S. Soccer, is keenly aware of these Belizean players.
He has coached many of them in his first stint with the national team five years ago, and others on the Under-21 squad that defeated El Salvador in the Central American Games.
“They know each other well and they have a lot of faith in each other,” Mork said. “It’s something we’ve continued to build on in our training camps, of really making sure we’re a family and that’s a positive force for us in these games.”
The United States isn’t underestimating its opponent. Yes, the goal is to play in the Gold Cup final in Chicago at the end of the month, but the road begins here in Portland, against a hungry and determined Belize squad anxious to continue what Martinique started when it upset Canada Sunday.
“We’re expecting a difficult game, a Belize side that is highly enthusiastic, motivated to play their game here at the Gold Cup,” United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “They are thrilled they made it through, but they made it through because they deserved it.”
Klinsmann said that he expects Belize to play a defensive style. An early goal is key for the United States because the longer the game is scoreless, the more confidence the Jaguars will get.
And if the U.S. is able to get that goal, defender DaMarcus Beasley, who wears the captain’s armband in the Gold Cup, wondered if he will be treated to what has become a Portland Timbers tradition. After every Portland goal, “Timber Joey” saws off a slab of what is known as the victory log and presents it to each goal scorer in a post-match ritual.
“I hear so many great things about how they support the Portland Timbers here, how much fan support they have, even throughout the city,” Beasley said. “I hear they got a chainsaw when they score a goal or something like that. I don’t know if they’ll do that for us if we score, but I’m really excited about the game.”