At least one Columbus Crew player will be playing competitive matches this month during the preseason. Crew winger Luis Diaz has been selected to the Under-23 Costa Rica team that is going to Guadalajara, Mexico for the CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship. The 22 year old was an expected selection to the team after being picked on multiple occasions to Los Ticos senior squad in the last year.
Diaz has made four caps for the Costa Rican Men’s National Team with his first coming in October of 2019 as a substitute against Uruguay in a friendly. Diaz is set to enter his third season with the Black & Gold and his first as an MLS Cup champion. Diaz started 14 matches last regular season where he provided three assists. In the MLS Cup playoffs, he started three games including the MLS Cup Final. In the championship game, he assisted Columbus’ third and final goal by Lucas Zelarayan to secure the title against the Seattle Sounders, 3-0.
Diaz is one of three MLS players to be included in this Costa Rican team attempting to qualify for its first Olympics since 2004. Nashville SC’s Randall Leal and Portland Timbers midfielder Marvin Loria have also been included in the squad. With Black & Gold center back Aboubacar Keita not being selected to the United States team, Diaz is the only Columbus player going to Mexico this month.
Costa Rica will be in Group A of the eight-team tournament alongside the U.S, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. Los Ticos' first match will be March 18 against the Americans at Estadio Jalisco. Three days later, they will play Mexico and conclude group stage matches against the Dominican Republic on Mar. 24. Group B consists of Canada, Honduras, Haiti and El Salvador. The CONCACAF qualifiers are set to be broadcast on FOX Sports 1 and TUDN from March 18-30.
The top two teams of each group will qualify for the semifinal stage with those winners securing a spot in the Olympic Games this summer in Tokyo, Japan. The men’s soccer tournament is scheduled to start July 21, a few days before the opening ceremony. Should Diaz and Costa Rica qualify, they would play in front of only local supporters with a report yesterday stating the IOC has decided to not allow overseas spectators for the Olympics.
The two CONCACAF qualifiers will be the last two teams to complete the 16-country format. The 14 teams that have qualified thus far include hosts Japan, defending gold medalists Brazil, France, Germany, Romania, Spain, New Zealand, Egypt, Ivory Coast, South Africa, Australia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Argentina.
Costa Rica’s lone Olympic appearance in Greece was successful with advancement out of the group stage ahead of Portugal. Los Ticos lost in the quarterfinals in Patras to eventual gold medalists Argentina, 4-0. Carlos Tevez scored a hat trick in the victory.
For Diaz, this will be a massive chance to write another incredible chapter in his young soccer career, an MLS champion in December with an opportunity to become an Olympian.
The Crew continues its preseason training camp in Chula Vista, California this week. The team, minus Luis Diaz, will return to Ohio on March 14.