The Big 3 in Costa Rica: Who Wins the Title?

Ninety-one. That’s how many titles Alajuelense, Saprissa and Herediano account for in Costa Rica.

The 2020 spring season will be no different.

One of the three major clubs will turn the COVID-19 obstacle into triumph, but there’s still a long path for them to tread through. Below is where Alajuelense, Saprissa and Herediano stand entering the restart of the season.

Saprissa (33 Points)

Date Fixture
Jornada 16 vs. Herediano
Jornada 17 @ Santos
Jornada 18 vs. Limon
Jornada 19 @ Alajuelense
Jornada 20 vs. Jicaral
Jornada 21 vs. Grecia
Jornada 22 @ La U

Herediano is the last club Saprissa wanted on its schedule after a two-month hiatus. Fortunately for El Monstruo, it’s smooth sailing from there.

Four of the remaining six fixtures come against the bottom four in the table. Away to Santos is a stumbling block, but Saprissa can breathe a sigh of relief seeing Limon, Grecia and La U on the schedule. 

A four-point lead over second improves its chances of finishing atop the table. As explained in my brilliant piece detailing the playoff system in Costa Rica, finishing the season first guarantees a place in the Gran Final.

If there was ever a season where that carried more importance, it’s one disrupted by a global pandemic.

Alajuelense (29 Points)

Date Fixture
Jornada 16 @ Cartagines
Jornada 17 vs. San Carlos
Jornada 18 @ Grecia
Jornada 19 vs. Saprissa
Jornada 20 @ Guadalupe
Jornada 21 vs. Santos
Jornada 22 @ Jicaral

If any team can catch Saprissa, it’s Alajuelense. Unfortunately, that’s a shit-out-of-luck kind of schedule.

Five of the club’s last seven games are against playoff contenders. The only breathing room is a trip to Grecia and a penultimate battle with Santos de Guapiles. Fortunately, a visit to Saprissa is on the docket, but that can further exacerbate the issue as much as it can solve it.

Anything but three points in the Clasico Nacional guarantees a silver or bronze finish.

Herediano (26 Points)

Date Fixture
Jornada 16 @ Saprissa
Jornada 17 vs. Guadalupe
Jornada 18 @ La U
Jornada 19 vs. Santos
Jornada 20 @ Cartagines
Jornada 21 @ San Carlos
Jornada 22 vs. Perez Zeledon

Herediano’s fate will be sealed off the bat. The club is better off preparing for a playoff run in June if it fails to beat Saprissa in Jornada 16.

Even a draw won’t help. They’ll need to recapture the form that led to a 4-1 throttling of El Monstruo back in January.

Depth at multiple positions will allow Herediano to ease into a stretch run. With Jicaral and Cartagines four points behind, slipping to fourth isn’t a concern. A friendlier schedule after the Clasico de Buen Futbol is why.

Expect to see a stronger Herediano in late June.

Who Wins?

The 1-up mushroom rewarded to the league leader is invaluable this season. 

Saprissa has four points to play with. It likely won’t need them all. The schedule is too favorable for the club to slip out of first. With an extra life in its back pocket, Saprissa has a wider margin for error.

The schedule is another factor to consider. Playing Sunday-Wednesday-Sunday will test each player’s strength and conditioning. The average age of all three clubs will come into play.

Saprissa (27.9) and Herediano (27.9) has youth on its side. Alajuelense is teetering on 30 (29.7). 

In terms of depth, no one is deeper than El Monstruo. Marvin Angulo, Jonathan Martinez, Ariel Rodriguez and Michael Barrantes are impact subs that can easily start for any of the club’s rivals.

Recent failures will add more fuel to the fire.

Herediano eliminated Saprissa twice in the last three seasons. Both resulted in titles for El TeamPrepare for Saprissa-Herediano III.

This time, Saprissa prevails.

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