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Marcos Sánchez helps Panama nab first place in CONCACAF Hexagonal Round

23-year-old midfielder looks to play a more integral role with club and country

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While the U.S. Men’s National Team secured a crucial point at Estadio Azteca last night, D.C. United midfielder Marcos Sánchez and the Panama Men’s National Team quietly grabbed first place in CONCACAF’s Hexagonal Round with a 2-0 win over Honduras. Sánchez went the full 90 minutes in the match, as well as going full time in the previous two 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying fixtures, a 2-2 draw with Costa Rica on Feb. 6 – in which Sánchez contributed an assist – and a 1-1 tie with Jamaica on March 22.

“Marcos is highly technical player who can play a number of different spots in the midfield,” said D.C. United General Manager Dave Kasper upon signing Sánchez on loan on Feb. 26. “He has had a great two months of performances in both the UNCAF and World Cup qualifying with Panama, and he sealed a roster spot with his time during pre-season.”

With 2012 Rookie of the Year finalist Nick DeLeon sidelined for six weeks with a grade-two hamstring strain, Sánchez looks to be a leading candidate to step in to the starting winger position when United plays next (Friday, April 5 at Sporting Kansas City; 8:30 p.m. ET). Slight, but confident with the ball at his feet and possessing a fearless attacking attitude, Sánchez first appeared on D.C. United Scouting Coordinator Kurt Morsink’s radar in the summer of 2012. The 23-year-old showed well during his pre-season trial and has already made his presence known in his inaugural MLS campaign, featuring in three games for the Black-and-Red (one start) and logging 89 minutes total.

“I think it was good to get [Sánchez] in this game so he can feel the pace of this game and the physicality of this game and the speed in which he has to play,” said Head Coach Ben Olsen after Sánchez’s first start in a 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake on March 9. “You can see his technical ability is very good and he understands how to play.”

Coming to the nation’s capital via Tauro FC, Sánchez has made a total 20 appearances (14 starts) and has tallied two goals for the senior Panama squad. Sitting atop the CONCACAF Final Round standings with five points, Panama is looking to qualify for its first FIFA World Cup in the nation’s history. The first-place Canaleros continue FIFA World Cup qualifying against Mexico on home turf on June 7 and then head to Seattle, Wash., to square off against the U.S. at CenturyLink Field. Before matching up with Panama, the U.S. will suit up at National Stadium in Kingston to play Jamaica on June 7.