Action from the CONCACAF Champions League game between visiting Club America (right) and Alajuelense on August 29, 2013, in Alajuela, Costa Rica. (Photo: Mexsport)
MEXICO CITY -- A week after Mexico and Costa Rica met on the final day of FIFA World Cup Qualifying in the region, the countries square off again Tuesday, this time with a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals at stake as Club America hosts Alajuelense.
Even though Brazil 2014 may not have direct bearing on the match at the Estadio Azteca, it will play a significant role.
On Friday, the Mexican Football Federation announced that Club America head coach Miguel Herrera has replaced Victor Manuel Vucetich as national team manager for the two-legged playoff against New Zealand. But first, the 45-year-old will hope to lead the Aguilas into the Champions League knockout stage with a win at the Estadio Azteca.
“When you start in these circumstances we capture two goals: One is the bichampionship in the country and the other is to advance to the second part of the CONCACAF tournament to attend the Club World Cup,” said Herrera.
Both sides are even at six points apiece, but Alajuelense needs only a draw to progress, since it holds the advantage in the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Manudos’ 1-0 win at home on August 29 -- thanks to an 83rd minute penalty kick from Alvaro Sanchez -- provides the current margin of difference.
Alajuelense coach Oscar Ramirez is hoping to replicate the success the Ticos had a week ago in San Jose, when Costa Rica defeated visiting Mexico, 2-1.
“We have to control the game,” noted Ramirez. “We know that America is going to press, but we must get the ball because we are a team that likes to play with the ball.”
Alajuelense defeated Sporting San Miguelito 2-0 in its last CCL outing on September 26. In that game, Alejandro Alpizar became the fifth player in the competition’s history to score at least one goal for three different teams. The Rojinegros travel to Mexico on the heels of a 1-0 loss to Puntarenas in domestic play last Thursday.
Club America has not played in the tournament since a Raul Jimenez brace lifted it to a 3-0 win over visiting Sporting on September 17. The five-time CONCACAF champion, though, is at the summit of the Liga MX table on 32 points, six ahead of second-place Santos. A 1-1 draw at Cruz Azul on Saturday may have snapped the Aguilas’ four-match winning streak, but did extend its unbeaten run.
NOTES: Club America defeated Alajuelense 1-0 in the final of the 1992 CONCACAF Champions Cup in Santa Ana, California, on a 67th minute goal by Hugo Sanchez.