The play of Arabe Unido defender Roberto Chen (pictured) in the first half of 2017 has earned him a Panama recall. (Photo: Mexsport)
PANAMA CITY, Panama – On Sunday, Panama head coach Hernan Dario Gomez announced the addition of defender Roberto Chen to his squad’s training camp roster ahead of World Cup qualifiers next month against Costa Rica (June 8, away) and Honduras (June 13, home).
After seeing only a few seconds of WCQ action for Russia 2018 – those coming deep in stoppage time of 2-0 win at Jamaica on November 13, 2015 -- Chen is ready to make the most of this new opportunity.
“Today is the first training session and I felt comfortable and obviously happy after almost a year and a half of not being on the national team,” he said following a training session on Monday. “I’m eager to add my grain of sand for the dream of an entire country.”
It has been a long road for Chen, who – as a 16-year-old -- emerged internationally with impressive performances for Panama in the 2011 CONCACAF Under-17 Championship.
While playing for Spain’s Malaga in September 2014, his left ACL ruptured. Since recovering, he has moved between clubs in Spain, Panama and Colombia, before joining Arabe Unido in January.
The 23-year-old played every minute of the Expreso Azul’s 2016/17 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series against FC Dallas, scoring in the 2-1 second-leg win at home. He also went the entire way in Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Tauro FC in the 2017 Panamanian Clausura final.
“The truth is that I feel good,” commented Chen. “This last season at Arabe Unido went well for me. I have played the most number of matches that I’ve had in three years. I’m at my best moment physically. I’ve lost 10 kilos, so I feel good.”
Now that he’s back in the national team fold, Chen is ready to help the Canalero cause.
“In the end, in these qualifying matches, it doesn’t matter what you did five or six months ago, but recently,” he finished. “I think my current [form] is good. I had a good performance in the [Panamanian] semifinal and final and I am available for whatever the coach wants.”