Orlando City’s Sebas Méndez, Pedro Gallese push for World Cup berths with Ecuador, Peru

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Orlando City stars Pedro Gallese and Sebas Méndez are still vying for spots in the 2022 World Cup with their respective national teams following the October international break.

Both players completed their 12th matches in the CONMEBOL qualifiers — Méndez for Ecuador and Gallese for Peru — on Thursday as South American teams near the end of their qualifying tournament.

Gallese is a long-time staple of the Peruvian national team, recording his 80th cap during the October international break. Peru has struggled throughout qualifying this year despite Gallese’s efforts in goal, winning only their third match of the tournament in their first October matchup against Chile.

The team ceded five goals in their three October matches although the keeper made eight saves, dropping losses to Bolivia and Argentina.

With only six matches left in the tournament, Peru’s chances are low of breaking into a qualification position. The team currently sits on the second-to-last rung of the South American teams. However, the team will be afforded a slight break with no more rematches against top-ranked Brazil and Argentina left on their schedule.

Ecuador fared better in the tournament so far, ranked third only behind Brazil and Argentina. The team notched a major 3-0 win over Bolivia to pull ahead in the table, but both Colombia and Uruguay are nipping at Ecuador’s heels, only one point behind.

Unlike Gallese, Méndez was mainly a bench player for Ecuador until this year, remaining on the sidelines for every game he was called up for amid the pandemic in 2020. But a rigorous offseason and a breakthrough with Orlando City early in the 2021 season cemented the defensive midfielder as a key starter for Ecuador’s World Cup push.

However, the midfielder only featured in one of the team’s three matches — the opening win over Bolivia — featuring as a 79th-minute substitute. Méndez is still slightly recovering from a deep bone bruise on his foot incurred earlier in the Orlando City season and has been on limited minutes for the last two international breaks.

Both players returned to the U.S. Friday for a quick turnaround to travel to Cincinnati with the Lions. They will remain with Orlando City through the remainder of the regular season, but the November international window could force one more round of departures for players throughout MLS.

This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Julia Poe at jpoe@orlandosentinel.com.

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