GAC grad plays in World Cup qualifier

It won't have a ton of information on the Web site just yet, but FIFA.com will have a few statistics for the profile of Danny Irizarry.

The Greater Atlanta Christian grad made sure of that this past Saturday when he saw his first game action with the Puerto Rican National Soccer Team in its 2-2 tie against Honduras in 2010 World Cup qualifying. The result, coupled with a 4-0 loss to Honduras on June 4, eliminated Puerto Rico from qualifying, but was certainly eventful for Irizarry.

He entered as Puerto Rico's first substitute (teams are allowed only three reserves in World Cup qualifying) in the 58th minute, playing a good half-hour at defensive central midfield. It was his first World Cup qualifying experience after not playing in a March win over the Dominican Republic or the earlier 4-0 loss to Honduras.

"It was great, it was a pretty crazy atmosphere with the fans down here," said Irizarry, a rising senior at Ohio State. "Honduras had just as many fans as we did. It was a wild environment. It was pretty exciting when the coach called my name first as a sub.

"I was excited and everything when I first got on the field, then the heat gets to you and you slow down a little bit."

Irizarry has spent more than two weeks in Puerto Rico this year with the national team, which features just three college players who join mostly MLS, USL and overseas players. He was offered a spot after Puerto Rico's coaches noticed him with Ohio State in the NCAA playoffs, and agreed to represent his father's parents, who are both Puerto Rican.

Irizarry, who came back to Georgia on Monday, plans to join the Atlanta Silverbacks' Premier Development League under-23 team for the remainder of the summer before heading back to Ohio State in August. He returns for his senior season with some quality experience behind him.

"Just being around good players definitely helps you improve," he said.

"Not only your skills, but your professionalism, your attitude. It was definitely a learning experience."