Two Dragon players and a coach stayed in the United States and have left the Salvadoran team after its 2-1 CONCACAF Champions League loss to the Portland Timbers on Aug. 3.
The club initially said Aldair Turcio and Kenny Lemus, along with fitness coach Wilson Gil, had permission to stay behind after the contest. But now club directors say the players and staff member do not have plans to rejoin Dragon. The club's backup goalkeeper, Oscar Sanchez, also stayed in the U.S., but Dragon administrative director Matias Guardado confirmed Wednesday to Goal USA that Sanchez is back with the team in El Salvador. He also said that Turcio, Lemus and Gil are still not with the club.
"We're no longer expecting the players who stayed in the United States. They abandoned the team without permission," sporting director Roberto Coreas told the El Grafico earlier this week.
The news that the players are no longer expected at Dragon doesn't come as an enormous surprise with manager Omar Sevilla telling reporters after Saturday's league match that the players were forgotten like trash. Monday was, however, the first time the team confirmed it doesn't expect the players to return. The manager continued to speak against the players Tuesday, calling their departure "an act of treason against the team and our country."
Coreas said the team will contact the American embassy in El Salvador about the situation and also reach out to the league to see if they will be able to replace the players on the squad.
While visa records are confidential and the State Department declined to discuss specific cases, one official said that the penalty for a player overstaying their visa could be severe.
"Generally speaking, professional athletes visiting the United States to compete in a short-term tournament or series of games may qualify for a B-1 visa," a U.S. State Department official told Goal USA on condition of anonymity. "U.S. Customs and Border Protection, at the time of application for entry into the United States, determines whether a person may enter and the authorized period of stay.
"There are strict penalties for staying beyond the authorized period of stay – up to and including a 10 year ban on entry to the United States.”
Length of stay on B-1 visas can vary, but a U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services website indicates that an initial B-1 visa will be valid for between one month and six months.
This isn't the first instance this year of Salvadoran soccer players staying behind in the United States. Alianza midfielder Miguel Blanco left the team after a February friendly against FC Dallas.
Dragon is in the CONCACAF Champions League after winning the 2016 Clausura, the club's first title since 1952-53.