GUAPILES, Costa Rica – The 2018 Scotiabank CONCACAF League kicks off next week with 16 teams looking to become the second team to lift the trophy following Olimpia’s conquest in 2017.
The Honduran club had to navigate through three tricky rounds, eliminating Alajuelense (3-0), Alianza (3-2) thanks to a second leg, second-half stoppage time winner and Plaza Amador (8-2) before downing Santos de Guapiles in the final in penalties, 4-1, following a 1-1 draw on aggregate after two legs.
However, with Olimpia not in the tournament this year, opportunity knocks and perhaps no team is more motivated to claim that precious ticket to the 2019 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League than Costa Rica’s Santos de Guapiles.
Bolstered by a suffocating defense in the 2017 SCL, Santos collected wins over San Juan Jabloteh (8-3), CD Universitario (2-0), and Arabe Unido (1-0) before narrowly falling to Olimpia.
The Tico side is back with the same defensive mindset and look to be stronger in attack with the additions of 23-year-old Panamanian FW Ronaldo Dinolis, who scored 16 goals at last year Sporting San Miguelito, 25-year-old and former Alajuelense and Herediano FW Francisco Rodriguez and 28-year-old former Alajuelense and Cartagines FW Bryan Lopez.
There will be a number of challengers standing in Santos’s way.
Four teams that competed in the 2018 SCCL will be looking to return to the big dance via the 2018 SCL: Herediano of Costa Rica, Tauro of Panama, Motagua of Honduras and Santa Tecla of El Salvador.
All four sides have loaded up on reinforcements summer, but Santos will have the benefit of experience from last year’s SCL campaign to carry them forward and ward of the challenges of their Central American and Caribbean counterparts.
“We are going to fight for the CONCACAF tournament,” said Santos de Guapiles MF and team captain Jose Garro earlier this month via the club’s Facebook page.
“We’ve already had a good experience [in the SCL], that we didn’t win and now we are going to seek that title,” added Garro.
Santos open its 2018 SCL campaign on Wednesday, August 1 at home versus Portmore United, before traveling to Jamaica for the second leg on Thursday, August 9.