Carlos Ascues stopped paying attention whenever Ricardo Gareca unveiled his latest Peruvian national team squad.
And why would he keep track?
Ascues, 27, hasn’t featured for La Blanquirroja for three years and didn’t expect to this time when his name was revealed in the 24-man squad expected to play in two friendlies in September against Ecuador and Brazil.
While the expectations clearly weren’t there, Ascues admits he was left surprised when a phone call from a friend interrupted a television series he was watching at home with his daughter last week — hours before Orlando City kicked off against Atlanta United.
“A close friend called me, sounding all excited and I thought he was joking,” he told the Orlando Soccer Journal in Spanish before Thursday’s practice. “I didn’t believe it at first, I really thought it was a joke because I have friends who are pranksters.”
Ascues eventually let the news sink in and shared the news with his parents, girlfriend and his daughter. Ascues was officially back in the Peruvian national team.
“It’s honor after so much time,” he said. “To wear the jersey of the national team is special. You don’t know how to receive the news, but with my family, it was something so important for me… really happy, you know?”
The last time Ascues featured for Peru was during CONEMBOL 2018 World Cup qualifying in a 1-0 loss to Uruguay on March 26, 2016 in Montevideo — a game which Ascues started and played 64 minutes.
For Ascues, who was born in Venezuela to Peruvian parents and lived there until he was 8-years-old, his dream was always to play for the Peruvian national team.
“It was always my dream to wear the red and white of Peru because in Venezuela I never really played soccer,” said Ascues. “So it was in Peru where I played the sport and had the opportunity to play in championships and good teams. So I then decided I wanted to play for Peru.”
Ascues’ departure to his respective national team follows a wave of other Orlando City players reporting to international duty: Kamal Miller, Will Johnson, and Tesho Akindele are expected to report to the Canadian national team while Sebastián Méndez will join the Ecuadorian team.
While that leaves James O’Connor with a challenge on selecting his best-squad possible, the latest round of international call-ups is proof of the quality of players Orlando is producing, O’Connor believes.
“I think it’s a testament, to be honest, of how he’s been playing as an individual,” O’Connor said on Ascues. “For us as a club, when you look at the international call ups, we now have five that have been called up. We’re probably one of the highest teams that will have five players that will leave for international duty whereas at the start of the year, out of that group, there’s probably only Méndez that was seen as a regular.”
“So to have four players that throughout the course of the year have impressed their national team coach to be called up is a testament to the work that’s been done here by all the players and coaching staff,” added O’Connor.
Miller, Johnson, Akindele, Méndez, and Ascues haven’t left yet, but are expected to miss Orlando City’s crucial match-up against league-leaders Los Angeles FC on Saturday, Sept. 7 at Exploria Stadium.
Ascues understands it leaves the Lions in a difficult situation.
“It’s complicated,” he said. “I would have liked to be a part of the game because it’s an important game, though every game is important, whoever’s turn it is to play that game, I wish them the best. They know it’s an important game for us and we know the quality we possess.”
Here’s the national team schedule Orlando’s five internationals will be a part of.
Thursday, Sept. 5
Ecuador vs. Peru (9 p.m. ET, Red Bull Arena)
Saturday, Sept. 7
Canada vs. Cuba (BMO Field)
Tuesday, Sept. 10
Peru vs. Brazil (11 p.m. ET, L.A. Memorial Coliseum)
Ecuador vs. Bolivia (8 p.m. ET, in Ecuador)
Cuba vs. Canada (Cayman Islands)
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