The congested Costa Rican calendar brings midweek action, with Saprissa hosting Perez Zeledon on Wednesday.
Below is everything you need to prepare for the premier matchup from Jornada 4.
No club is playing better futbol than Saprissa at the moment.
The league leaders are a perfect 3-0-0 and the only unblemished team in the country. Impressive victories over San Carlos (1-0) and Guadalupe (3-0) was followed by a 2-1 victory over Cartagines on Sunday. Trailing for the first time all season, manager Walter Ceteno made the most of his attacking arsenal. Left back Luis Hernandez made way for Johan Venegas, moving David Guzman to the back line.
The impact of the move was felt immediately, with Venegas creating the opportunity for Manfred Ugalde to equalize just five minutes later. A debilitating howler from the Cartagines goalkeeper (Darryl Parker) allowed Saprissa to secure the win.
With nine points, Saprissa are three points clear of San Carlos and Jicaral.
Perez Zeledon continued their roller-coaster start to the year. After securing three points against Alajuelense in Jornada 2, the Guerreros del Sur followed that up with a 3-2 loss away to San Carlos on Sunday.
|13||A. Cruz||99||G. Jimenez|
|29||L. Hernandez||15||J. Cortes|
|52||A. David||30||J. Ramirez|
|5||J. C. Aguero||21||K. Soto|
|12||R. Blanco||6||H. Mora|
|20||M. Torres||3||D. Castillo|
|8||D. Guzman||24||L.C. Barrantes|
|10||M. Angulo||18||J. Beckford|
|9||D. Ramirez||7||A. Mata|
|27||M. Ugalde||9||G. Leiva|
|2||C. Bolaños||11||C. Elizondo|
The biggest question mark for Perez Zeledon entering Wednesday will be centered on the back line. Jhamir Ordain was sent off in the closing minutes of Sunday’s loss, leaving the visitors with a hole to fill at right wingback.
Two starters on that back line appear to be obvious replacements. Heiner Mora featured as a right back for a multitude of seasons with Saprissa and could serve as an option; however, his 35-year-old legs are no longer built to endure the position.
Especially against an attack as potent as Saprissa’s.
Dennis Castillo—who mainly features as an outside center back in a five-man back line—serves as the next obvious replacement. Moving him to right wingback opens the door for Jorge Ramirez to make his first start of the year.
As for the hosts, Centeno will need to rotate his squad at some point. There are a multitude of attacking options at his disposal. You can only keep the likes of Venegas and Ariel Rodriguez on the bench for so long. Player morale must stay high.
Unfortunately for Venegas and Rodriguez, both Marvin Angulo and David Ramirez have been stellar to start the season. It’s difficult to make the case for either to rotate out. If there is to be any movement, it will have more to do with Sunday’s clash with Herediano looming.
Fresh legs will be needed for the first real test of the season.
Player Who Must Perform
Expect Perez Zeledon to play their favored 5-4-1 and an incredibly low block. Absorb and counter will be the obvious tactic, one that served them well against Alajuelense in Jornada 2. It’s going to take a technical magician to break them down.
Fortunately for Saprissa, they have exactly that in Angulo.
His seasoned legs show no signs of slowing down. Be it service from set pieces or the phase of play, Angulo is as dangerous as they come in the attack. Perez Zeledon will have zero chance of containing Saprissa if Angulo’s form continues on Wednesday.
Battle to Watch
Winning the ball in key areas will be pivotal for Perez Zeledon to smash and grab three points. If you’ve watched enough of Guzman, you know he’s prone for a mistake or two. I still haven’t forgiven this fucking guy for his shambolic showing against Serbia in the 2018 World Cup.
Jake Beckford—who loves himself a yellow card as much as Guzman—will serve as Guzman’s counterpart in midfield. Opportunistic pressure can create the turnover Perez Zeledon will need to spark an advantageous counter attack.
At the very least, watching these two battle for the ball in midfield will manifest in a yellow card or two.
In American sports, this is the definition of a trap game. A visit to Herediano is less than a week away. Saprissa will be eager to settle the score after last year’s elimination, making Perez Zeledon an easy opponent to overlook.
It’s just difficult to see Centeno allowing that to happen at home. Saprissa are off to a flying start and nothing about this matchup says that will change.
Saprissa 2-0 Perez Zeledon
Be sure to follow my official game thread for this one on Twitter @crcfutbol.