Arabe Unido's Leslie Heraldez (pictured) played every minute of the 2017 Panamanian Clausura two-legged semifinal against Plaza Amador. (Photo: Mexsport)
PANAMA CITY, Panama – Arabe Undo can complete a dream season on Saturday night, when it faces Tauro FC in the 207 Panamanian Clausura final at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez.
The Expreso Azul also captured the 2016 Apertura crown and reached the 2016/17 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, beating three-time champion Monterrey twice along the way.
If the Colon-based club lifts trophy once again, it will be for a record-extending 14th time in the Liga Panameña de Fútbol (LPF)/Asociación Nacional Pro Fútbol (ANAPROF) era.
In March, Panama international Nelson Barahona returned for a second spell with Arabe Unido, signing as a free agent after departing Colombian side Alianza Petrolera
He likes the direction in which Panamanian club football is heading.
"Panamanian football is not like it used to be,” said Barahona. “Now you see a lot more talent on the field and you play at high speed. I am happy because I was able to adapt quickly to the coach’s demands and I am very happy to be in the final.”
All of this is not to say that it has been an easy campaign for Arabe. On April 15, stalwart midfielder Amilcar Henriquez was killed in shooting outside of his home in Colon.
Henriquez wore number 21 on his jersey, which is proving to be significant. Remarkably, this is Arabe Unido's 21st final in Panamanian football, after eliminating the Plaza Amador by an aggregate score of 2-1 in its 21st game of its season.
"There are many coincidences in that respect,” Barahona finished. “We had a very difficult time with his death and we hope to be able to offer a great show this Saturday so that he enjoys it from heaven.”
With a win, Arabe Unido will qualify for the 2018 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League.