Dallas Cup XXXIII: The choice between club and country

Sanchez chose to play for FC Dallas at this year's Dallas Cup

FRISCO, Texas -- A national team call-up is one of the greatest honors a soccer player can hope for. It's an honor that goalkeeper Richard Sanchez is eternally grateful for, having backstopped Mexico to a U-17 World Cup championship less than a year ago in front of over 100,000 screaming fans in Mexico City. So when the preliminary rosters for Dr Pepper Dallas Cup XXXIII came out, and Sanchez was listed on the rosters for both the Mexico U-20 national team and the FC Dallas Academy, the young 'keeper had a tough choice to make.

Sanchez spent time in two national team camps earlier this year, training with Mexico's U-18s for a week in January before spending three weeks trainining with the U-20s from mid-February to early March. The added familiarity with his U-20 coach and teammates undoubtedly made the choice even harder.

Shortly after his time with the U-20s, Sanchez spent a couple of weeks in England training with Chelsea before returning to Frisco just ahead of Dallas Cup. Upon his return, Sanchez was informed of an injury incurred by FCD U-18 goalkeeper Caleb Underwood that would keep him out of the prestigious tournament, news that may have played a role in Sanchez's decision.

"I came back from Chelsea and Schellas was telling me about how Caleb got hurt," Sanchez recounted. "He asked me if I would support FC Dallas and I was all for it. I’ve spent a lot of time out with the national team and I just got back from England, so this is my opportunity to show that I do support FC Dallas."

And that support was returned from the club last Sunday night during the FC Dallas Academy's opening day match against the Manchester United Reserves. Despite FCD's 2-0 loss, Sanchez took away a big off-the-field positive from the match. Looking on from the stands was Sanchez's teammate and legendary MLS goalkeeper Kevin Hartman (right), wearing an authentic #40 Richard Sanchez FC Dallas jersey.

"Richard comes out and trains with us every day," Hartman said. "I have a ton of respect for his game and what he does for the club. I exchanged jerseys with him at the end of last year and I think it’s important to support the club so I thought it’d be fitting to wear his jersey."

The significance of the gesture was not lost on Sanchez, who has admired Hartman since he was a kid, dating back to when the veteran played for the LA Galaxy.

"For him to do that for a younger guy, it’s motivation," Sanchez said. "It’s definitely motivation for me. It just shows the unity we have in the club.

"It was a small detail that meant a lot to me."