Two of Costa Rica’s big three clash on Sunday, when Alajuelense host Herediano.
Below is everything you need to prepare for 2020’s first edition of the Clasico Provincial.
Neither club has been stellar to start the 2020 Clausura. To be fair, their seasons ended like four days ago.
At least that’s what it feels like.
After a four game-series to crown the 2019 Apertura champions—Herediano won the second leg of the Gran Final on penalties—both teams returned to action just three weeks later.
Alajuelense opened the season with an impressive 4-1 victory over Limon. A brace from Alexander Lopez—with some contributions from Ariel Lassiter and Anthony Lopez—allowed them to quickly shake the ghosts still haunting El Morera Soto.
Then, Wednesday happened.
A quirky 3-1 loss to Perez Zeledon—one in which they rattled the crossbar three times—quickly ended any feel good from Jornada 1’s result.
Herediano suffered some quirks of their own. A 3-3 barnburner with visitors Grecia was followed by a rather uninspiring 1-0 win over Jicaral in Jornada 2. The four point tally, however, is enough to see them in second place entering Jornada 3.
|#||L.D. Alajuelense||#||C.S. Herediano|
|14||C. Meneses||15||M. Nuñez|
|13||A. Machado||99||K. Brown|
|4||K. Gutierrez||34||A. Soto|
|25||L. Sequiera||37||K. Fuller|
|11||A. Lassiter||14||B. Burke|
|26||B. Alfaro||10||Y. Tejeda|
|8||J. M. Cubero||5||E. Granados|
|16||A. Guevara||28||G. Torres|
|9||J. Moya||7||Y. Ruiz|
|12||M. Ureña||27||A. Villalobos|
Where’s Adonis Pineda?
Good question. He’s clearly going through some shit.
The 22-year-old goalkeeper didn’t exactly paint himself in glory during last year’s four-legged final. An assortment of errors—particularly in the first leg—led many to question whether Pineda was ready to step in Patrick Pemberton’s shadow.
His performance on Wednesday didn’t help.
Pineda came off injured following that play. Many in Costa Rica question his injury. Did he suffer an actual physical injury, or did he go full Markelle Fultz? The answer will be provided Sunday.
Player Who Must Perform
Bernal Alfaro didn’t feature in any of the first three legs from last year’s final. Alajuelense went with a midfield that mainly consisted of Jose Miguel Cubero and Anthony Lopez, allowing Herediano’s seasoned and more physical midfield to control the game. Esteban Granados and Randall Azofeifa overmatched Alajuelense’s pairing.
It wasn’t until the return leg of the Gran Final that Alfaro played his first minutes.
Going the full 120, the 22-year-old scored the equalizer in the 73rd minute, but more importantly, provided balance in midfield along Cubero. Alajuelense went on to lose that game in penalties, but Alfaro’s star was born that night. Since then, he’s started both games this season and is clearly the maestro behind Alajuelense’s tempo.
His ability to dictate possession is key to calming some of the nerves still lingering from last year’s fracaso.
Battle to Watch
Kenner Gutierrez loves him a penalty. Alberth Villalobos is converted winger playing as a No. 9 alongside Yendrick Ruiz and loves him some 1v1s. It’s the perfect recipe for the referee to eventually become a talking point in this game.
Herediano are simply better than Alajuelense at this stage.
There are too many question marks surrounding the hosts in this one. The Pineda situation is a murky one at best, Jonathan Moya is fundamentally useless as a No. 9 and Cubero is still a thing they rely on in midfield. Couple all that with what transpired at the end of last season, and all signs point to an Herediano victory.
…but I still think Alajuelense get a point out of this.
An inspired start, led on by the thirstiest and most loyal supporters, propel Alajuelense to an early lead, which they’ll eventually give away because…you know…they’re cursed.
Alajuelense 2-2 Herediano
Be sure to follow my official game thread for this one on Twitter @crcfutbol.