Sporting Kansas City midfielder Roger Espinoza knows what a sprained ankle feels like.
As he writhed in pain during second-half stoppage time Sunday on the field at Columbus Crew Stadium, Espinoza thought he’d done much worse than sprain his right ankle.
Panic started to set in.
“It’s broken,” Espinoza recalled hollering in forward Kei Kamara’s direction as he laid on his back waiting for Sporting KC’s training staff to reach him.
Even as Kamara tried to reassure his injured teammate, urging him to stay positive, Espinoza was convinced that he’d done serious damage — way beyond a simple sprain.
He saw two critical games for the Honduras national team in FIFA World Cup qualifying slipping away along with perhaps the balance of Sporting KC’s season.
“The training staff asked if I wanted to walk off, but I couldn’t get up, so I started worrying a little more,” Espinoza said. “… I’ve had ankle sprains in the past, but this felt totally different. It was in a totally different spot. I sprained the deltoid tendons, and it felt a lot more painful (than a typical ankle sprain).”
Espinoza, 25, remained in Columbus overnight following the 1-1 draw against the Crew for X-rays, which were negative. An MRI confirmed a right anterior medial ankle sprain and nothing more serious.
“I’m relieved that my injury is not a long-term injury,” said Espinoza, who is expected to miss two to four weeks.
Still, Espinoza admitted he was disappointed to have to miss Honduras’ qualifiers Friday at Panama and Tuesday against Canada in San Pedro Sula.
Los Catrachos are tied with Canada for second with seven points, though Honduras has a superior goal differential and more goals scored. Panama leads CONCACAF Group C qualifying with nine points.
“It will be very difficult,” Espinoza said. “These games probably would have been the biggest of my career. It’s a very difficult time Honduras is going through in the last two games of qualifying for the next round. I’m very sad, but I know my teammates in Honduras are very good players and can take this forward.”
Watching Honduras play from wherever he can find a broadcast in Kansas City will be something akin to mild torture for Espinoza, who is in a walking boot and on crutches.
“Obviously, I am going to want Honduras to win, but I’ll be very nervous for sure,” Espinoza said. “When I’m not on the field, sometimes it’s more nerve-racking for me. There’s more anxiety, because you want to be out there helping your teammates.”
He hopes he won’t have to endure the same thing when Sporting KC’s season resumes Oct. 20 at the New York Red Bulls — a possibility coach Peter Vermes wasn’t ready to address.
“We don’t even know if he’s out for the New York game,” Vermes said. “It’s good to have the two-week break and, of course, we are glad it’s not broken. We are shooting for him to be back for the New York game.”