Costa Rica goalkeepers (pictured) train at the Costa Rican Football Federation Sports Complex on January 5, 2017, in Alajuela. (Photo courtesy of Federación Costarricense de Fútbol)
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – Costa Rica is setting sights on a third consecutive Copa Centroamericana crown when it opens play in the 2017 edition against El Salvador on January 13 in Panama.
A record-extending ninth tournament trophy and are 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup berth the Ticos’ driving motivators.
“We are approaching it with a lot of importance. There are good players and a good team,” said 34-year-old defender Pablo Salazar, a member of the 2013 and 2014 title-winning sides. “For years, Costa Rica has been showing at the CONCACAF level that it has to be on top and this is a good opportunity to demonstrate it.”
Head coach Oscar Ramirez’s squad is a blend of veterans and youth standouts.
Players like Salazar and others such as 34-year-old goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton (eight career Copa Centroamericana games) and 34-year-old defender Michael Umaña (73 career caps) will bring much-needed leadership, especially with usual captain Bryan Ruiz not being on the roster.
Then, there’s 19-year-old midfielder Gerson Torres, who recently was signed by Mexico’s Club América and 23-year-old Saprissa midfielder Ulises Segura, who appeared in all four of Saprissa’s 2016/17 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League group-stage matches, helping the Monstruo Morado into the knockout round.
“It is a list of very good players that can perfectly fit into the (CONCACAF) Hexagonal list, that have been there,” Pemberton remarked. “They have been champions and are players with a lot of experience. We are obligated to bring home the cup and all of the players have it clear and for that reason it is being worked on.”