Francis uses FIFA World Cup experience as learning opportunity

Crew leftback is youngest defender on Costa Rica roster

During his first season with the Crew, Waylon Francis has endeared himself to fans of the club with his attacking prowess down the left flank. But when fans of the Black & Gold turn on the 2014 FIFA World Cup to try to spot Francis in the colors of Costa Rica, it might be difficult to recognize him.

That’s because he’s sporting a new, clean-shaven haircut — one of the most obvious signs that the 2014 FIFA World Cup is set to be a new experience for the 23-year-old leftback.

“It was out of pure respect for my country and the National Team,” said Francis on his new look. “They asked me to cut my hair because I had the opportunity to go to the World Cup. It was for respect to the National Team.”

Francis was the youngest defender called into the Costa Rica National Team by coach Jorge Luis Pinto. Unlike teammate Giancarlo Gonzalez, the 23-year-old was seen as a longer shot to make the final roster, but hard work and immense potential earned him a place on the plane to Brazil. Speaking after completing an impromptu late-night training session with the reserves on the PPL Park pitch, Francis is trying to do everything he can to make an impression.

“It was very important for me, knowing that I tried to do everything well [to make the team],” said Francis. “It’s great that the coach gave me the opportunity.”

Given his age, it’s reasonable to surmise that it might not be Francis’ time quite yet to play a feature role for the Ticos. Costa Rica played two U.S.-based friendlies ahead of the FIFA World Cup, with the first coming against Japan in Tampa, and the second against Ireland in Philadelphia. Francis didn’t make an appearance in either contest, but that wasn’t because Pinto doesn’t think he’s worthy of an appearance.

“I wanted Waylon to play a little more today, but because of the way that Ireland plays, I thought it was a little better to maintain him on the bench and have him play later,” said the Costa Rica boss after the match in Philadelphia. “In the second half, Ireland started playing low balls, and [I thought] it was a matter of time before they started playing high balls again. That’s why I didn’t take out the taller players.”

The lack of playing time has not discouraged Francis, however. The Crew defender knows that he has a bright future, and he is taking every step necessary to be prepared should he be called upon in Brazil.

“Coach told me to be patient. Today was going to be my debut, but it couldn’t happen,” said Francis. “He told me to be patient and that he is going to need me at some time.”

Making the learning experience even more beneficial is the fact that Francis has club teammate Gonzalez by his side for every step of the way.

“He’s a great companion. He always supports me in whatever I want to do. He is always telling me to work hard.”

Whether or not he is needed in Brazil, it’s impossible to understate the effect that simply being a part of the National Team at a World Cup can have on Francis’ development as a player, and whether he receives any playing time or not, he figures to return to Columbus all the better for having the experience

“Here with the National Team, they all work as a team. They all have the dream of going to the World Cup. That’s the most important thing that I’ve taken home — the hard work and the pride of wearing my country’s jersey.”