Make that three Columbus Crew players called up for international duty this week. Crew goalkeeper Eloy Room is headed back home to join the Curaçao Men’s National Team as the country begins FIFA World Cup qualifiers this month. In addition to Room, Luis Diaz was called up to join the Costa Rican Under-23 team for Olympic qualifiers and Milton Valenzuela is with the U-23 Argentina squad for two friendlies against Japan.
Room is the top-choice goalkeeper for Curaçao and plays a major role for his national team. Curaçao begins its journey towards attempting to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar on March 25 against Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in Willemstad, the capital of Curaçao. The second match will be in Guatemala City where Curaçao will take on Cuba on March 28.
The 32-year-old Room is expected to make his 35th and 36th caps for Curaçao this month. His trophy case expanded last year after helping the Black & Gold win its second MLS Cup title in 2020 as well as winning the MLS Save of the Year award for a remarkable double save he made against Orlando City last November. Internationally, Room won the 2017 Caribbean Cup Golden Glove leading Curaçao to the title and made quite the impression at the 2019 Gold Cup prior to coming to Columbus.
Curacao is one of 30 CONCACAF nations beginning its World Cup qualifying journey in the first round. The team, managed by World Cup veteran manager Guus Hiddink, is in Group C with Saint Vincent, Cuba, Guatemala and the British Virgin Islands. The first-place team in each of the six groups of five advances to the second round of qualifying. Curaçao is the top seed in the group and favorites to win Group C and advance to Round Two.
Should they come away with the most points after four matches, two played in March and two played in June, Curaçao would play the winners of Group D in a two-legged tie in June. The winner will advance to the third round octagonal group featuring the United States and Mexico. Group D’s favorite is Panama, who qualified for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Recently, Curaçao’s tournament performances have been the best in the country’s history. The small island, located in the Dutch Caribbean region, is currently ranked 76th in the FIFA world rankings. They were victorious in the 2017 Caribbean Cup and had their best performance of the 2019 Gold Cup, making the quarterfinals, before to the U.S. 1-0 in Philadelphia.
Room is one of the multiple Crew players that could be absent for international duty over the course of the 2021 season. The expectation is he will return with Curaçao in June for the final stretch of first-round qualifiers, leaving the Crew with Evan Bush, Eric Dick and Matt Lampson as the goalkeeping options to replace the starter.
The rest of the Black & Gold, meanwhile, continues its preseason in Chula Vista, California before returning to Columbus on March 14. After two weeks in Orlando, the Black & Gold begin its 2021 campaign in the CONCACAF Champions League against Real Esteli on April 8. The MLS Cup champions open the new MLS season at home on April 18, facing the Supporters’ Shield winners, the Philadelphia Union.