Costa Rica's Alajuelense, shown here in 2012-13 CONCACAF Champions League game against Tigres of Mexico, opens its domestic season on August 11, 2013, at home against Carmelita. (Photo: Mexsport)
ALAJUELA, COSTA RICA – With its league campaign opening on Sunday at home against Carmelita, Costa Rica’s Alajuelense is eager to excel this season.
The Manudos enjoyed a solid preseason that included a Copa Iberico tltle as they topped rival Saprissa on penalty kicks after a 2-2 draw at the Estadio Nacional. They also held English Premier League side Fulham to a 1-1 tie before falling 3-1 on two late goals, one of which came from former team member and current Costa Rican international Bryan Ruiz.
Head coach Oscar Ramirez is eager to start playing meaningful games and spoke clearly of what he expects from his squad in its attempt to win a 29th title.
“I want to see an intelligent, mature team, doing combination play, managing the opponent accordingly and capitalizing on our chances,” said the 48-year-old, who played for Costa Rica at the 1990 World Cup finals in Italy. “Clearly, this all takes work but we are plenty confident that it can be achieved with sacrifice and effort.”
Alajuelense has set its sights on three objectives over the next 10 months: winning titles in the Torneo Invierno, Torneo Verano and the CONCACAF Champions League. The club has a rich history in the confederation’s annual club championship, capturing the old Champions Cup twice (1986, 2004).
To meet the challenge of participating in multiple competitions, the directors decided to bolster the roster with dynamic and experienced players. In the attack. 22-year-old forward Alejandro Aguilar returns to the club after a loan spell at Carmelita, where he scored ten goals. Ramirez will also be leaning on Johan Venegas, a 24-year-old attacker, who joins from Puntarenas, where he tallied 12 goals last year.
The middle was strengthened with the arrival of Ariel Rodriguez from Perez Zeledon. The Costa Rica international, 27, was a member of the UNCAF Copa Centroamericana title-winning side this past January, has appeared in five 2014 World Cup Qualifying and played in the recently completed CONCACAF Gold Cup.
The Rojinegros’ defense added some Brazilian flavor with the signing of Maurim Vieira, a 25-year-old left back known for his speed. Also returning is Costa Rica international Jhonny Acosta, who was on-loan last season with Dorados de Sinaloa of Mexico.
With so much talent on the roster, the competition for places in the starting eleven promises to be fierce. According to midfielder Kenneth Garcia that will benefit the team in the long run.
“There are so many teammates competing for a spot at the start of the season and it will be very hard for the manager to make a final decision,” he said. “Each one of us has to show why we deserve the opportunity because clearly all of us want to emerge as champions.”
Alajuelense will make its 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League debut on August 22, when its travel to Panama for a meeting with Sporting San Miguelito.