Action from the August 29, 2013, CONCACAF Champions League game between Alajuelense (right) and Mexico's Club America. (Photo: Imagenes en Costa Rica)
ALAJUELA, Costa Rica – After starting the 2013 Torneo Invierno winless in its first three games, Alajuelense has bounced back in a major way. Four straight wins have lifted the Manudos into second place with 13 points, one point behind rival Saprissa.
Numerous off-season acquisitions were made to reinforce the roster for the rigors of the domestic league and give it an opportunity to advance past the CONCACAF Champion League’s group stage for the first time. In its second tournament game last month, a 1-0 conquest of Mexican champion Club America immediately preceded the upturn in local fortunes.
Players such forward Alejandro Aguilar and defender Jhonny Acosta returned from loan spells, while attacker Johan Venegas, midfielder Ariel Rodriguez and defender Maurim Vieira were signed in attempt to bring a 29th Costa Rican title to the Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto Scotiabank.
It took a little time for the team to gel, but now that it has, head coach Oscar Ramirez is pleased with the results.
"The group is understanding what we as coaches want, this team has arrival, we weigh the options, we press the opponent high up and are not suffering major counterattacks,” the 48-year-old former Costa Rican international. “Our schemes are consistent with the characteristics of both our players and the opposing squad.”
Alajuelense has triumphed by a combined score of 5-1 during its current four-game winning streak. Though the victories have been narrow, Ramirez is not concerned.
“We would like to win by a larger margin, but that will come later,” he commented. “The important thing is that the results have been with us.”
Next up for the two-time CONCACAF champion is a Monday encounter at home against fellow Champions League participant Cartagines, which is only four points away from first place with a game in hand.
"Cartagines has dangerous men and we know the type of approach (head coach) Javier (Delgado) likes,” noted Ramirez. “For our part, we will seek to make them uncomfortable and turn the game in our favor. We can count on interesting alternatives that will give us returns.
“It is clear that we will fight at home for the three points.”
Alajuelense does not return to Champions League play until September 26, when it hosts Panama’s Sporting San Miguelito.