Santos success reflects Costa Rica’s football growth
Santos de Guapiles (pictured) is looking become the first Costa Rican team to lift a CONCACAF trophy since Saprissa captured the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup in 2005. (Photo: Imagenes en Costa Rica)

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras – These are heady times right now for fans of Costa Rican football.

- The national team recently earned a place in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.  

- Keylor Navas is the starting goalkeeper for Real Madrid – the reigning champion of the UEFA Champions League, FIFA Club World Cup and Spanish La Liga.

- Two teams (Saprissa and Herediano) will feature in the 2018 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League next year, and it well could be three should Santos de Guapiles defeat Honduran side Olimpia in the 2017 Scotiabank CONCACAF League final, beginning with Thursday’s first leg.

For Santos head coach Johnny Chaves, it is perhaps his team’s progression to the SCL final that best reflects the depth of Costa Rican football at the moment.

“If all the countries raise their level, we’ll all win,” Chaves said in a press conference Wednesday.  “It is the same In Costa Rica.  It’s not just Saprissa, Alajuelense.  Santos is a good organization, a team that wants to be in competitions.  I told the players that it’s not Santos of Guapiles, it’s Santos of Costa Rica.  We hope to give joy to the country.”

A fascinating chess match is expected between Chaves’ side and Olimpia.

While the Hondurans boast a potent attack with 14 SCL goals and the tournament’s two leading scorers in Roger Rojas (5 goals) and Carlo Costly (tied for second with 4), Santos counters with a defense that has conceded just three goals.

Chaves says he expects a stiff test from the Leones.

“Olimpia has a defined style,” he finished.  “They have good players on the wings.  In midfield, they have players with tactical experience and, up top, Costly continues to be the main man.  They know how to play.  They know how to take advantage of space and they have a lot of strengths.”

Santos has never won a top-flight title in Costa Rica and this will be its first CONCACAF final.