World Cup's best as D.C. athletes
Lionel Messi (Argentina) & John Wall (Wizards)
Lionel Messi and John Wall are the guys that have the ball in their hands (or on their feet, for Messi's sake) the most. They are the ones that distribute to their teammates and dictate the flow of the game. Both are known for speed and relentlessness, and are dangerous in space. While Wall isn't the worldwide star that Messi is, both players are their team's leaders and hold the keys to the car; when Messi and Wall are playing well, odds are their teams are playing well, too.
Rafael Marquez (Mexico) & London Fletcher (Redskins)
Longevity and dependability: both are calling cards for these two longtime players. When Marquez started in Mexico's opening game in Brazil, he became the first player ever to captain his team in four different World Cups. Fletcher also has an impressive streak to his name: he played in 256 consecutive games during his stellar NFL career, starting in his last 221. Throw in the fact that these two play in the center of their team's defenses, and the similarities are striking.
Clint Dempsey (USA) & Alfred Morris (Redskins)
Clint Dempsey and Alfred Morris don't get talked about nearly as much as some of the other players at their position do, but they don't really care. These two standouts put up numbers without giving their teammates headaches or tabloids stories to cover; what they do is play a tough, hard nosed (and most recently for Dempsey, a broken nosed) style that is vital for their respective offenses. Dempsey scored the USA's first goal of the World Cup, upping his national team total to 38, and Morris has scored 20 touchdowns in his first two years, proving that both are guys who can finish a play.
Neymar (Brazil) & Bryce Harper (Nationals)
Neymar and Harper both have the talent to be the top player in their sport. The striker from Brazil is renowned for his ability to create and score, and he has already dazzled in this year's World Cup. In fact, his fellow Brazilian stars Pele and Ronaldino have said he is an "excellent player" and "will be the best in the world" respectively. Harper, meanwhile, was the youngest position player ever to be named an All-Star in 2012 and was later named the NL's Rookie of the Year. While he has been bitten by the injury bug recently, the talent is still there. Get used to seeing their two names a lot over the next 10-15 years.
Diego Costa (Spain) & DeSean Jackson (Redskins)
Diego Costa and DeSean Jackson are similar to each other not because of on field playing style, but because their transitions from their previous team to their current one have both been very noteworthy. Costa suited up for the Brazilian national team twice in 2013, but decided to represent Spain for this year's World Cup after being granted Spanish citizenship. Jackson is now in DC after being cut by the Eagles, and while we may never know exactly why, the theories behind his release have made his debut in Washington that much more anticipated. Jackson, however, hopes to have better results than Costa; the Spanish striker was booed heavily and his team has shockingly been eliminated from contention.
James Rodriguez (Colombia) & Bradley Beal (Wizards)
Bradley Beal, 20, and James Rodriguez, 22, are bonafide stars that are just beginning to be recognized by their sport's fans as such. The Wizards wing excelled under the bright lights of the NBA Playoffs to make a name for himself, while the Colombian midfielder is using the World Cup's big stage to do the same. Beal was poised and put on a shooting show in the postseason and is now touted by many as the league's next big thing at guard; Rodriguez, on the other hand, has drawn heaps of praise for his two goals and on the ball skill thus far in Brazil.
Joao Moutinho (Portugal) & Niklas Backstrom (Capitals)
Joao Moutinho is responsible for getting the ball to teammate and superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. Niklas Backstrom is also expected to keep a big time goal scoring wing happy: he has to feed pucks to Alexander Ovechkin. Both guys are table setters who rack up assists but also do other things well, too. Without their ability to maintain possession and make pinpoint passes, Ronaldo and Ovechkin would certainly see a decline in their goal scoring numbers.
Luis Suarez (Uruguay) & Gilbert Arenas (Wizards)
Luis Suarez is arguably the best goal scorer in soccer right now, yet it can also be argued that he is the sport's most polarizing player. The Uruguayan striker is as productive as they come on the field, but many futbol fans focus on the many controversies that he's been in the center of instead. Among other things, Suarez was red carded in the 2010 World Cup and has bitten an opposing player (twice). He is constantly being talked about, not unlike Gilbert Arenas, who in his prime was one of the NBA's most unstoppable scorers and a beloved Wizard, but also got into his fair share of trouble.