Alfredo Pacheco is still only 26, but he rates as one of El Salvador’s most experienced players. The defender joined the professional ranks nine years ago with Club Deportivo Futbolistas Asociados Santanecos, or CD FAS for short.

Pacheco made 217 appearances for his home nation’s most successful club and won his domestic championship five times, before switching to Major League Soccer (MLS) outfit New York Red Bulls on loan in spring this year. "My decision was based on a desire to play a different type of football. I wanted to find out what it’s like playing abroad, and get to know a new culture. I also wanted to continue growing as a player and an individual," the 1.78m full-back told FIFA.com.

Happy despite on-field woe
However, the team from the Big Apple have made a miserable start to the 2009 campaign, winning just two of their 12 fixtures to date. The Red Bulls are currently bottom of the MLS' Eastern Conference. "I never thought we’d get off to such a poor start. We have a very good team, although obviously we have any number of problems right now. But I reckon it’ll come right in the end," the ever-optimistic Pacheco stated.

Despite the team’s evident woes, the man born in the Salvadoran town of Santa Ana has settled well into his new life in the bustling metropolis of New York, as he explained to FIFA.com: "I’m thrilled and delighted to be in New York. The football is much faster-paced here and I’m impressed by the competition. And I’ve noticed people here are slowly but surely developing a passion for the game."

First cap versus USA
Pacheco earned his first full cap for El Salvador almost exactly six and a half years ago, in a friendly against the USA on 17 November 2002. Even now, with the benefit of long hindsight, it is clear the player struggles to draw any positive conclusions from his maiden outing for his country.

"We lost the game 2-0, and there are no happy memories when you lose. That only happens when you win," the defender insists.

Dissatisfied with campaign to date
Pacheco’s pride and ambition come even more sharply into focus when the conversation turns to qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. Three games into the final qualifying round in North and Central America and the Caribbean, El Salvador have mustered a meagre two points.

"I’m not satisfied. We’ve only taken two of a possible nine points. We’ve not played well up to now, but we have the chance to turn it around in our forthcoming games. We face Mexico next, and we know it’s a game we can win,” Pacheco declares.

Urgent need for points
"It’s a crucial fixture for us, and we need points if we’re to move on. Obviously we have the boost of playing in front of our own fans. We'd like to give them a decent result," the man capped 66 times by his country continues.

Four days after facing Mexico, El Salvador travel to Honduras. The fixture promises to be pivotal in the battle for places at next year’s finals, as the Hondurans are two points ahead of the Salvadorans in third, the spot which would guarantee a trip to South Africa in 2010.

Support of a nation
"The important thing is not to take too many risks against Honduras and simply play to win. We urgently need the points, obviously. We’ll give it everything we have and take the fight to them. A win would leave us well-placed in the standings,” the player reasons.

Hopes of a first FIFA World Cup finals appearance since 1982 are still very much alive in the El Salvador camp. The seasoned international and his team-mates focus on that fact in their preparations for every qualifier. "We’ve always been a football-mad country. Qualifying for the World Cup would be a springboard for all of us. It would also be a reward for the steps we've taken together as a nation, continuing our development. It would prove we have the ability to compete at the highest levels of the game," Pacheco concludes, his eyes on the glittering prize of a place in South Africa next year.