Saprissa (pictured) has scored 16 goals in its last four Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League games. (Photo: Mexsport)
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – Saprissa’s 4-2 win on Wednesday over the visiting Portland Timbers thrust it one step closer to a berth in the 2016/17 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.
The first-place Monstruo Morado (2W-1D-0L, 7 points) performed impressively, scoring two goals in each half to take a four-point lead over the Major League Soccer champion in Group B
“I always hope that my team plays like it did today,” Saprissa head coach Carlos Watson said after the game. “It will not always be possible, but the intensity, the marking, the high pressing, the return of the block and ball possession are what I always want. Today, it appeared wonderfully.”
Portland went ahead 1-0 lead in the sixth minute through Diego Valeri, only for the host to reply with a trio of unanswered goals. After Fanendo Adi struck in the 68th minute to bring the Timbers within a goal, Marvin Angulo converted his second penalty kick of the game five minutes later to restore the two-goal advantage.
“In the second half, we went out much better positioned and we managed to get the third goal, which had a big calming effect,” noted Watson, referring to Fabrizio Ronchetti’s 60th minute strike. “After the 35th minute, we closed the lines and made the opponent more desperate.”
Saprissa doesn’t play again in the SCCL until October 19, when it heads to Portland for the conclusion of group play. If the Timbers draw with or defeat already-eliminated Dragon on September 27 in San Salvador, the subsequent encounter between table toppers could end up being as intense as any in the competition this year.
Watson believes his team will be prepared regardless of the task’s to-be-determined magnitude.
“We have to get it in our heads that we should go to do something there [in Portland],” the 64-year-old finished. “We have to go win there. I am assuming that they are going to win in El Salvador. We will not go out to defend for the draw that would advance us, but look for the win by all measures. We do not play badly away, so we have many hopes of winning the game there.”
Saprissa has reached the quarterfinals in two of its previous four SCCL appearances.