After learning Philadelphia Union’s opponent for the 2021 Concacaf Champions League Round of 16 would be Costa Rican side Deportivo Saprissa, Head Coach Jim Curtin spoke with members of the media to talk about the draw and getting the Union on the international stage.
Crossed paths with Saprissa
While the two sides have never met on the pitch, the Union know quite about about Deportivo Saprissa. Head Coach Jim Curtin faced off against the squad as a member of the Chicago Fire in 2004, falling to the Costa Rican side in the semifinals via a 3-2 margin. Ironically enough in 2012 the two club’s passed again as the Union’s first club-to-club partnership in franchise history was Deportivo Saprissa.
The current version of Saprissa is full of faces that Union fans have seen play at Subaru Park and an opponent that Curtin said will help with the club’s preparation.
“Having just watched Saprissa play in [Concacaf League] final against Alajuelense, there is the advantage of getting to scout them and see them,” Curtin said. “There is some familiarity because there are very talented former MLS players on their roster such as Kendall Waston, Christian Bolanos and David Guzman.”
Bayern Munich or Manchester United of Costa Rica
Since the creation of the Liga de Fútbol de Primera División, no other club has won as many titles as Deportivo Saprissa as the club boasts 35 league titles in their trophy case. With that history, passionate fans of the Morados expect the club to win.
“It’s a team that is the Bayern Munich or Manchester United of Costa Rica,” Curtin said. “A big club where the only expectation is to win and to win championships. When you are in this competition and playing in a Champions League setting every team is talented and the opponent has a lot of ways to hurt you.”
Curtin called their April opponents one of the toughest teams available in Pot 2 but said the club will be looking forward playing for the city of Philadelphia as the club looks to take the next step in franchise history after winning the 2020 Supporters’ Shield.
“An intimidating atmosphere to play in but this is the challenge our club wanted as we take the next step as we look to grow our club forward after being Supporters’ Shield Champions. I think the experience of playing in a hostile environment against a good team in Saprissa, it will only make us better. Make no mistake about it, we enter this competition like everyone else with the goal of winning it.”
Philadelphia Union will play their first leg of the Concacaf Champions League on the road on April 6-8 with the return leg to be held at Subaru Park between played April 13-15.