SCL Semifinals, First Leg: Players to Watch
Santos de Guapiles’ Starling Matarrita (left) has been one of the 2017 Scotiabank CONCACAF League’s top performers. (Photo: Imagenes en Costa Rica)

Semifinal play in the inaugural Scotiabank CONCACAF League begins Wednesday, when Arabe Unido hosts Santos de Guapiles at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City, Panama. reviewed all four rosters and the statistics to come up with one player from each team who appears ready to make the biggest impact.

Carlo Costly, Forward (Olimpia)

If not for the heroics of the 35-year-old, Olimpia wouldn’t be in the SCL semifinals.  With the Leones down 1-0 after the quarterfinal opener against El Salvador’s Alianza, Costly struck for two goals in a 3-1 win in the second leg, including the series clincher deep into second-half stoppage time.  Thanks in part to his SCL play, Costly was called up to Honduras, appearing in recent World Cup qualifiers against Trinidad & Tobago (Sept. 1, 2-1 away win) and the United States (Sept. 5, 1-1 home draw).  He also scored in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with host Motagua in the Honduran “Clásico.”

Algish Dixon, Defender (Plaza Amador)

All too often, the work of defenders is overlooked in football.  There aren’t complicated statistics to measure effectiveness and they don’t often score enough to make headlines.  The work of Algish Dixon – as well as others on the backline – have been key to Plaza Amador’s recent successes.  The Leones conceded only 10 goals during the 2017 Panamanian Clausura and have allowed two in four SCL outings.  Dixon has played every minute of the SCL campaign and is deserving of a tip of the cap.

Starling Matarrita, Forward (Santos de Guapiles)

The 27-year-old always seems ready to pounce when an opportunity to score is presented.  In three Scotiabank CONCACAF League (SCL) outings, Matarrita is tied with Osvaldo Rodriguez for a team-best two goals.  Against visiting Chorrillo FC in the semifinal, second leg, Matarrita netted the game’s only goal in the 19th minute, volleying in with his right foot from the edge of the six-yard box off Kenny Cunningham’s right-sided cross.  He has one goal in the 2017 Costa Rican Invierno, netting in the eighth minute of a 4-2 win over visiting Municipal Liberia.

Carlos Small, Forward (Arabe Unido)

Let’s face it, when you’re the top scorer of a competition, the accolades – and attention – will come your way.  Small leads 2017 SCL with four goals, scoring in three of Arabe Unido’s four games.  The 22-year-old forward joined the Expreso Azul from Sporting San Miguelito in January 2017 and appears to have the makings of a future CONCACAF standout.  His best SCL performance came on August 16, when he entered as a half-time substitute to net twice in a 2-0 win at Aguila in a quarterfinal, first-leg encounter.