Competition: CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal First-Leg
Venue: Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto – Thursday, February 26th – 20:00 ET (01:00 Friday, 27th GMT)
Match Odds: Alajuelense 21/20 – Draw 9/4 – DC United 11/5
DC will have watched the Montreal Impact (the only other remaining MLS side in the competition) earn a valuable draw in Mexico against Pachuca on Tuesday night and will be hoping for a similar result at what will be a hostile environment in Alajuela.
The Black and Red were highly impressive in the group stages as they won all four games, conceding just one, and go into the tie as the number one seed in the Champions League. That means the 2014 Eastern Conference winners have been rewarded with a home tie for the second-leg.
Alajuelense may be the lowest seeded side left in the tournament but they will fancy their chances and they have the advantage of having already played ten games in their domestic league this season.
They sit second in the Costa Rican Primera table after ten games but come into the game in poor form, having not won a game in three. They have lost two on the bounce in front of their own fans, including a 2-0 defeat to league leaders Saprissa on Sunday.
DC United may not have started the 2015 MLS season but have a 2-2-2 record through preseason and will hope that they do not show any signs of rustiness in Thursday’s key game.
Remaining in the tie ahead of the return leg is crucial and DC are boosted by the fact that Alajuelense starting goalkeeper, Patrick Pemberton and defender Kevin Sancho are both suspended for the tie.
Fabian Espindola may be suspended for the start of the MLS regular season but he can play in the CONCACAF Champions League and will look to be the star man as DC United start their 2015 competitive schedule with a tricky fixture in Costa Rica before next Wednesday’s return leg.
Alajuelense’s form in the CCL: D/W/D/D
DC United’s form in the CCL: W/W/W/W
Key Stat: Keeping it tight – Alajuelense scored just one goal in all four of their group stage games but remained unbeaten.
Key Player: Fabian Espindola – Knowing that he’ll be watching on from the sidelines for the start of the regular season, Espindola will want to make an impact here. He has already scored two goals in this year’s CCL.
Score Prediction: Alajuelense 1-1 DC United – This is likely to be a tight, close-fought game as both sides will want to remain in the fixture for the return leg. Alajuelense know the ownness is on them to attack but DC should be in good shape to earn an important draw.