Hector Vargas (left) will guide 2014 Honduran Clausura champion Olimpia into the 2014/15 CONCACAF Champions League.
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – Olimpia has set a clear goal for the second half of 2014: win its CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) group.
The Honduran power is one of two teams to qualify for all seven editions of the competition (El Salvador’s Isidro Metapan is the other), but it has advanced to the knockout stages only once, falling to Saprissa in the 2010/11 quarterfinals, 3-1 on aggregate.
Led by head coach Hector Vargas, who guided another Honduran side -- Victoria – in the 2013/14 CCL – the Lions are focusing specifically on continental success.
"We start with the hope of a major tournament like CONCACAF and the local championship,” Vargas told CONCACAF.com on Wednesday from his team’s preseason camp. “We hope to achieve by putting together a team that allows us to do this in the best possible way.”
Last year, Olimpia missed out on a quarterfinal place to Sporting Kansas City by a single point. The sides met on the last day of Group 2 play with the Lions needing a win to progress. The game ended in a scoreless draw, a result that was enough to see the host through to the next phase.
Vargas believes that his CCL experience with Victoria taught him practical lessons that will prove to be a benefit.
"The Champions League is becoming more competitive each time and, therefore, Olimpia must have a roster with experience that will help us contest the two tournaments at once,” said the 55-year-old Argentine.
Due to technical-related decisions, four players who were part of Olimpia’s 2014 Clausura-winning squad are no longer with the club: Pablo Vazquez, Ramiro Bruschi, Henry Tilguath and Reynaldo Bermudez.
The 55-year-old, however, is confident that contributions from four players on the Honduras World Cup team -- Noel Valladares, Donis Escober (both goalkepers), defender Brayan Beckeles and midfielder Luis Garrido -- will prove vital in the CCL.
"Those four World Cup players will bring experience to the rest of the squad,” Vargas expressed. “I have no doubt of it.”
Olimpia will work for a week at its facilities in Amarateca, Francisco Morazán, north of the capital Tegucigalpa, and then be based in Siguatepeque, June 23-July3. It will also play two warm-up games in the United States on July 25 and 27.
The 29-time Honduran champion will face the USA’s Portland Timbers and Alpha United FC of Guyana in CCL, Group 5 play.