MIAMI, Florida – This Friday at 7:00 PM ET, Concacaf will be airing a re-broadcast of the 2018 Scotiabank Concacaf League Final second leg between FC Motagua of Honduras and CS Herediano of Costa Rica, followed by the 2019 SCL Semifinal second leg between Deportivo Saprissa and CD Olimpia. Both matches will be shown on Concacaf’s Facebook and YouTube pages, plus the Concacaf App.
While things will always change in football, one thing for certain is that the Herediano side that claimed the 2018 Scotiabank Concacaf League title will forever live in club lore. And for the likes of veteran players like MF Esteban Granados, being part of the first Herediano team to claim a Concacaf title is a cherished memory.
“For me it was one of the great achievements I’ve had as a player and as a Herediano player because it meant it was the first international trophy the club had in its cabinet,” said Granados in an exclusive interview with Concacaf.com. “I made such a big effort during the whole tournament to achieve what we all wanted, which was the Concacaf League and an international title.”
It was not the easiest of starts for Herediano, who had to rally to eliminate Salvadoran club Santa Tecla in the Round of 16.
“It was a tough start because Santa Tecla is so well coached, and they made things tough for us at home [1-0 win] and then away after just 20 minutes we were losing 2-0. Our coach made some changes, our goalscorer [Yendrick Ruiz] came on and thankfully he was able to score the goal that gave us the advantage,” said Granados.
After topping Universitario of Panama in the quarterfinals, Canalero giants Arabe Unido awaited in a semifinal series that ended in a narrow 2-1 aggregate win for the Ticos.
“I think they key for us was that we had studied Arabe Unido really well. We knew that their strength was their forwards, who were very fast. We’re tactically very experienced so we knew we could get an advantage if we filled the midfield, which is what we did. We knew we had a better team, but on the field anything can happen. Panamanian teams have grown a lot in football. They have shown it so it was important for us to be strong, especially at home,” said Granados.
At the friendly confines of the Estadio Eladio Rosabal Cordero during the 2018 SCL, Herediano posted a 4W-0D-0L record while outscoring opponents 8-0. Needless to say, Herediano’s home support played a big part in them lifting the trophy.
“It was a bit tough at first because we have always come close to winning an international trophy, including in the Champions League, but this was a golden opportunity to win the Concacaf League. We had a full stadium in the semifinal and the fact is that our fans at home always play a huge factor in the players’ motivation, so I’m thankful for them because when we need it the most, they always support us,” said Granados.
In the Final, Herediano took on Motagua of Honduras and got off to a rolling start with a 2-0 win at home in the first leg. However, late in the second leg in Honduras, Motagua had evened the series 2-2 and were coming close to a winner. That was the moment when for the second time in the Final, a Jose Ortiz backheel set up Jimmy Marin, who calmly stroked in the winning score in the 85’.
“We recovered a ball in defense, our left side played a long ball forward to Jimmy, Jimmy than played a dep ball into Ortiz and then got away from his marker [Henry] Figueroa and then Ortiz played a backheel to Jimmy who was coming at the penalty spot and he shot between a defender and the goalkeeper and he scored. It was a really great goal.
“When the ball went in it was a like a release of adrenalin knowing that we were so close to achieving something that Herediano had never achieved. It was a happiness full of tears because we were reaching something for which we had worked really hard and we were fulfilling a goal that we had set at the start of the season,” said Granados.
Costa Rican clubs have enjoyed great success in the SCL, with Santos de Guapiles reaching the Final in the inaugural edition in 2017, followed by Herediano and Saprissa winning the title in 2018 and 2019, respectively. The hope now is that Costa Rica’s SCL success can translate to the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League.
“Through working and improving, copying the good things that Mexican and MLS teams have done. We know that they have spent millions to build their infrastructure, stadiums, signing great players through their sponsorships and partnerships, so copying those things we can try to reach the same level of success that they’ve had at the club level,” said Granados.
On a personal level, Granados ranks his first domestic title with Herediano and his inclusion on Costa Rica’s 2014 FIFA World Cup squad as his best personal achievements in football, but more importantly for the 34-year-old is what Club Sport Herediano has meant in his life.
“The club represents a blessing in my football career. I think all of the accomplishments that I have had thus far have been with them. I was able to wake up my career there when my career was in decline. Herediano made all my dreams come true in football. It’s a blessing for me to be a Herediano player and be a part of this club,” concluded Granados.