MIAMI, Florida - Santos de Guapiles certainly left an indelible mark in their first ever CONCACAF appearance.
The Costa Rican club made a memorable run to the final of the 2017 Scotibank CONCACAF League before falling 4-1 on penalties to Olimpia of Honduras after a 1-1 tie on aggregate.
But thanks to a strong 2017/18 Costa Rican season in which they accumulated the second-best record among non-champions, Santos de Guapiles are honored to be back in the SCL and hoping that this time they are the ones raising the SCL trophy.
"It is a point of pride to once again be in this tournament. Being able to compete against the biggest teams in the area has helped us grow," said Santos de Guapiles Head Coach Johnny Chaves in an exclusive interview with CONCACAF.com from the 2018 SCL draw in Miami, Florida.
"To be back here fills us with satisfaction and once again stimulates our dreams. The expectations are to do it better and be champions," said Chaves.
While reaching the 2017 SCL final was a great feat for the Ticos, it also posed a big challenge to Chaves and his staff in managing the pressures of two competitions.
Chaves feels like the lessons learned from last season will be well applied in 2018.
"Everything was new for us. We have to manager better the planning of the domestic league and the international tournament. Last year we didn't manage it well. It was all a lesson to then be able to better balance these series with the domestic league.
Similar to last year's SCL when they opened with Trinidad and Tobago's San Juan Jabloteh in the Round of 16, Santos de Guapiles will once again square off against Caribbean competition versus Jamaica Red Stripe Premier League champions Portmore United.
The Santos boss knows that a stiff challenge awaits his team.
"It's a team that comes off of competing in the Caribbean Club Championship. They are champions of the Jamaican league and we know what the qualities are of the Jamaican footballer. They have good technique and have players who handle their tactical concepts well. They have important national team players so we'll be paying them a lot of attention," concluded Chaves.