Costa Rica to rely on roster depth at Copa

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.”