Panama's Arabe Unido will be competing in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League for the first time since the 2009-10 edition. (Photo: Allan V. Crane)
COLON, Panama – The early part of 2014 promises to be a challenging one for Arabe Unido as it looks to battle on two fronts. Besides Panamanian league play, the Expreso Azul has the added incentive of competing in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL), when it meets Costa Rica’s Alajuelense in an all-Central American series this March.
For those reasons, Arabe Unido head coach Jair Palacios has put his squad through a demanding preseason and used multiple line-ups in friendlies. Despite a 2-1 setback to SUNTRACS FC on December 31, he is confident in the team’s preparation.
“I think that the team has been taking the shape of what we want,” Palacios told Cable Onda Sports. “On Monday they worked a double session, Tuesday they did a different job. We are going to wait and see what is happening, so that the team continues to connect with itself.”
Midfielder Jean Carlos Cedeño, a recent addition from Alianza, is looking forward to the opportunity of playing in two competitions and hopes to give a good representation in both.
“All the competitions for me are difficult now that I am in a new club,” Cedeño told Bitácora Deportiva. “We are going to try to do things well since all of the clubs have strengthened themselves and for me, this is going to be the most difficult competition there is.
"The [CCL] represents many things: to represent the country, it’s important to represent the club and primarily represent my family, and do things well if I am called to play in that competition.”
Arabe advanced to this season’s CCL quarterfinals by topping the Houston Dynamo, 1-0, in the Group 1 finale on October 24. The win gave lifted it to nine points, two ahead of the two-time U.S. champion.
The Panamanians last played at this stage in the CONCACAF tournament during the 2009-10 edition. They were eliminated by Mexico’s Cruz Azul, 4-0 on aggregate, but lost only narrowly at home, 1-0, in the first leg.