32 players to watch, December 2009, World Cup 2010

Player To Watch #26: Wilson Palacios

Number 26: Wilson Palacios

Position: Central Midfielder

Country: Honduras

Club Team: Tottenham Hotspur FC, English Premier League

American-Based Professional Athletic “Soulmate”: (A YOUNGER!!!) Jason Kidd, PG, Dallas Mavericks

First of all, let me be the first at The Yanks Are Coming to wish all our readers a very Merry Christmas and best wishes, health and good fortune in the New Year. With that in mind, I take you back with the video below to October 14, 2009 – one of many fine moments for the U.S. Men’s National Team in this, the last year of the decade of decadence.

With this flick of Jon Bornstein’s head, Costa Rica was sent to a FIFA Playoff for a World Cup spot and the small, Central American country of 8 million, Honduras, punched its ticket to South Africa 2010 and made it possible for Wilson Palacios, without question that country’s finest soccer player, to make this list.

Honduras finds itself in a somewhat forgiving group. Sure, European champion Spain lurk in the second fixture for Lost Catrachos, but an opening fixture against Chile is a match where Honduras may find a point and that may be enough to set up a meaningful final fixture with the Swiss. If Los Catrachos are to advance, they will have to continue their gritty, tenacious defensive-minded play they often imposed on opponents throughout CONCACAF qualifying. The engine behind this style of play is none other than Tottenham Hotspur’s tenacious center mid, Wilson Palacios.

Palacios is the consummate battler. He is well-aware of the limits of his game and not only uses his limitations to motivate himself but also caters his game to guard and shield his weaknesses. Like Yank Landon Donovan, Palacios was rejected in trial runs in Europe with Red Star Belgrade, Cagliari Monaco and Arsenal before finally getting a chance to ply his trade with Birmingham City and then Wigan Athletic in 2007 and 2008. It was at Wigan that Palacios’ hard work finally received the highest praise, as his manager Steve Bruce called him “one of the finest midfielders in the EPL” and upon transferring him to Tottenham in January 2009 bemoaned that he had sold away his “right arm.”

At Tottenham, Palacios has become a fixture in the midfield, a tireless runner who shies away from nothing defensively and is utilized, as his soulmate Jason Kidd was early in his career, to lock down the best offensive player the opponent can offer. Like Kidd, Palacios is oversized for his position and utilizes his strength to make precision passes that a less strong and determined player could not make.

A horrid shooter, Jason Kidd has catered his game to his strengths and made a Hall of Fame career out of working hard, rebounding better than any guard in the NBA, and making tremendously good decisions moving the basketball. His vision is second-to-none even in the twilight of his career and he’s always been viewed as a team-oriented player who (used to) defends exceptionally, practices hard, and hates losing more than he likes winning. Even at 36, Kidd is likely to average around eight assists a night and six boards. These characteristics make him a vision of Wilson Palacios in six to seven years.

At twenty-five, Palacios is the heartbeat of a Honduras side that plays with dogged determination. Like Kidd, he’s such a poor shooter that he often isn’t closed out around the eighteen. No matter. He’s built his game around this weakness with a commanding defensive presence and exceptional passing. A complete team player, Palacios earns high praise even with his inadequacies, and from none other than Spurs boss Harry Redknapp (aka Jonny Knappersack), who recognizes what an immense impact the Honduran could have in South Africa:

“Palacios has made a massive difference to this club. He gets on with it, he’s strong, he’s aggressive – he’s what Spurs haven’t had. You get a little group who have seen Palacios come in, work his socks off and close down opponents, and it rubs off on people. He’s not a big-time Charlie, you need people like that to be successful.” Harry Redknapp

Neil W. Blackmon

  • “He’s not a big-time Charlie” – Johnny Knappersack