Olimpia's Bayron Mendez jumps in celebration after scoring against visiting Police United in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League on August 16, 2016, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. (Photo: Mexsport)
BELMOPAN, Belize – If Olimpia (1W-0D-1L, 3 points) wants to advance to the 2016/17 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, it has no options other than to defeat host Police United (0-0-3, 0) on Thursday and then post a win of at least two goals over visiting Pachuca (3-0-0, 9) next month.
Anything less and the Lions will bid adieu to the competition before the knockout stage for the seventh time in nine attempts.
The enormity of the task, however, does not faze head coach Hector Vargas. He’s accustomed to the pressure that success brings.
“The expectations are always the same,” Vargas said Wednesday. “Whenever we compete, we try to win. We have a good opportunity because we will finish the [three-team] competition at home. After taking on Police United, we will play against Pachuca on October 19, so we came here to play as best as we can. Our priority is to get the three points and win the match…the same way we did in Tegucigalpa.”
In that 4-0 victory on August 16, Michael Chirinos netted a pair of second-half goals, after Bayron Mendez and Javier Estupiñan set the tone with strikes before halftime.
On the domestic front, Olimpia tops the 2016 Honduran Apertura table with a 7W-2D-1L record and is coming off a 2-1 triumph at Social Sol on Saturday.
“We arrive prepared,” said defender Jose Tobias. “We just completed playing in the Honduran National League. We come in second place with three points. We’re in good condition. The team is more complete this time, with players who participated in the Olympics.”
Olimpia played its first two Group E games without a contingent of players who were representing Honduras at the Olympic Games in Brazil. A 1-0 loss in the opener at Pachuca on August 2 may prove to be the obstacle that ends the Lions’ international voyage.
Regardless, Vargas has no time to look back and wonder what might have been. His team’s destiny is still very much in its own hands as it was two years ago, when Olimpia advanced ahead of the Portland Timbers on away goals in the matches between them.
“We plan to win tomorrow, so we can get six points then move on to play against Pachuca and advance to the next round,” he finished. “We have done it before when we played against Portland [Timbers] and we hope to do it again.”