Real Esteli's Manuel Rosas (pictured) scored the first-ever CONCACAF Champions League goal for a Nicaraguan team on home soil in 2011. (Photo courtesy of Real Esteli)
ESTELI, Nicaragua -- Defender Manuel Rosas says that Real Esteli is ready for success in the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League (CCL).
“El Tren del Norte” will open its fifth CCL campaign on August 6, when Costa Rican champion Saprissa visits the Estadio Independencia.
Rosas believes that the team’s experience in the competition has prepared them to take the next step.
“We are certainly working on doing something different in the CONCACAF tournament,” Rosas told CONCACAF.com. “The objective is clear. We have participated already several times, but I think this season is a good one to show that we can actually take that step forward.”
The Nicaraguan power has certainly demonstrated consistent improvement. Despite not winning in 12 all-time games, six of Esteli’s last seven CCL outings have been decided by one goal or less. Closing that narrow margin, even just slightly, could make all the difference on this occasion.
In a quirk of the draw, Real Esteli and United States champion Sporting Kansas are in the same group for a second straight year. The sides played to a memorable 1-1 deadlock last September in Kansas City, but Rosas emphasized that Esteli is concentrating only on its own game.
“To have an opponent who is known is good, but each match is different than the other,” commented Rosas. “We are focused on ourselves. We are motivated and we want to reflect that on the pitch in those matches.”
The 30-year-old made history on August 2, 2011, scoring the first-ever CCL goal by a Nicaraguan team on home soil. Rosas struck on a penalty kick in the first minute of first-half stoppage time to level a preliminary round game against Toronto FC at 1-1. The Canadians eventually won 2-1, but Rosas still holds a fond memory of that evening.
“It was historic here in Nicaragua, the first goal scored in the Champions League,” he recalled. “It was a penalty and it was up to me to convert it. Regrettably, we did not get the result, but that satisfaction of being part of that always remains.”
Domestically, Real Estelí have won eight straight titles, a Central American record. Rosas believes that the secret to the club’s success is its professionalism and spirit of unity.
“It is the continuity and the dedication,” Rosas concluded. “It is the day-to-day desire to improve as players and as people. It is a united team. More than teammates, we are friends and I think that is reflected on the field. We have a good directors, we have good managers and we have good players.
“The result always is to be champion and to not settle.”