MIAMI, Florida – One of the more remarkable accomplishments in recent times in Concacaf was Costa Rica’s Liga Deportiva Alajuelense reaching two consecutive semifinals of the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League in 2013/14 and 2014/15.
Now five-and-a-half years later, Alajuelense find themselves in another Concacaf semifinal, in the final four of the 2020 Scotiabank Concacaf League where the 2020 Costa Rican Apertura champions will face Olimpia of Honduras on January 20.
“We are back in training now and there has been a good intensity, everyone is at a good level, which is important because in just a few days we are going to be playing for a lot,” said Alajuelense DF Jose Salvatierra in an exclusive interview with Concacaf.com.
“It is going to be a difficult match. It is a great team that we have in front of us, but I think the experience of having won the title here in Costa Rica adds a big motivation. The fact that we are close to another title has everyone feeling motivated to be in another final and win another title,” added Salvatierra.
The common link between the Alajuelense teams of yesteryear and today is Salvatierra, who appeared in 16 SCCL matches for the Ticos between 2011/12 and 2014/15 and was a key member of those Alajuelense semifinalist teams in 2013/14 and 2014/15.
The 31-year-old has also played in two matches thus far in the 2020 SCL in helping Alajuelense qualify for their first SCCL since the 2014/15 edition.
“To qualify for the Champions League was a big motivation within the team. That is what we have wanted for a long time, to be in that place and play that competition. There are so many things at stake. It’s prestigious for the club, it also provides the opportunity to play outside of Costa Rica. There are so many positive things that come with playing in the Champions League,” said Salvatierra.
When asked about those back-to-back semifinalist teams, one can almost sense the smile that creases Salvatierra’s face when he recounts those tournaments.
“Those were wonderful moments. It’s a little sad to get so close to the final and come up short, especially against Montreal [2014/15 SF]. We tied the series 4-4 but were eliminated on away goals. But the great work put in by that coaching staff is the same kind of work being done by our current staff. They are nice memories and I hope the same wonderful experiences I had with that team I can experience again with this group,” said Salvatierra.
Adding to the list of accomplishments of those Alajuelense teams is that in both editions, they managed to finish first in their group ahead of the two most decorated clubs in Concacaf history, Club America and Cruz Azul, in successive seasons, the latter in which Cruz Azul were the defending champions.
“It was a very unified group, full of players with a lot of experience and young players who were very hungry. I remember that the internal competition among the team was very strong and that helped us a lot. No matter who played, players were supported by everyone. That was the foundation of that team’s success. We also had a great coaching staff led by [Former Head Coach] Oscar Ramirez. He knew how to listen to his assistants and the people around him and I think that was fundamental for him, since they helped light the way to make certain decisions in important moments of the matches,” said Salvatierra.
With Alajuelense having won three matches thus far in the 2020 SCL, while scoring six goals and conceding just one, Salvatierra can see similarities between this year’s team and the ones from 2013/14 and 2014/15
“I think the mix of experience and youth is very good. We have [MF] Bryan Ruiz, [GK] Leo Moreira, [FW] Alex Lopez. For me I think we have the best players in the area. In defense we have added experience and the young players that have come up have performed very well, scoring goals, giving assists and playing good games. I would say there are similarities and I would say the same about the coaching staffs, too. They listen, they take into account everyone’s opinion and ideas. There is healthy debate and that benefits the team,” said Salvatierra.
While Salvatierra has experienced a lot as a member of Alajuelense, he still has many more seasons left in his boots, and one would bet that his remaining years are going to come with the club that handed him his debut in 2010.
“Alajuelense means everything to me. Alajuelense is something very important in my life because it has given me practically everything. In football it has permitted me to have so many great moments, so many moments of joy, but also sadness. In good times and in bad it has helped me grow both as a footballer and a person. I just hope I can continue to contribute and add years to my time in this club, which is practically my home,” concluded Salvatierra.