Founded on the 18th June 1919, Alajuelense were one of the seven teams that formed the National Football League two years later. Nicknamed Leones (Lions), they are one of the most successful sides in Costa Rican history, with 28 National Championships (including four won consecutively at the turn of the Millennium) and 20 National Subcampeonatos to their name.
They play their home matches at Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto which holds a capacity of just under 18,000. The ground is named after Alajuelense’s record appearance maker, Alejandro Morera Soto, who is commonly acknowledged to have been one of the best players in the country’s history. Soto also enjoyed a prolific spell at Barcelona where he scored for fun in the 1930s.
The club is one of only two sides never to have been relegated from the Primera Division, whilst they have also won the CONCACAF Champions Cup twice, and the UCAF Club Championship on three occasions. They had eight representatives in the Costa Rica squad for the World Cup in 2002, and five in 2006.
Alajuelense enjoyed a superb start to the campaign and they finished top of the group in the Apertura term. The top four teams advanced to the Semi-Finals, with Alajuelense knocking Limón out with a 1-0 aggregate scoreline over the course of the two legs to set up a Final clash with Herediano. They won the away leg 2-1, but Herediano grabbed a 1-0 victory in the second match to force extra-time. New signing Alvaro Sanchez then popped up in the 111th minute to secure a 28th title for the Lions.
Their success saw them qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League, where they were drawn in a group with Mexican side Tigres, and Nicaraguan outfit Real Esteli. They played each team twice, beating Esteli 1-0 home and away and drawing with Tigres on home soil. Unfortunately, the Mexicans comfortably prevailed in the reverse fixture to take top spot in the group and qualify for the knock-out stages.
In the Clausura tournament, Alajuelense missed out on qualification for the Semi-Finals after they finished fifth. It could have all been different if they had managed to get a result in their final game of the season, but they lost 1-0 to C.S. Cartaginés. Most recently, they drew 1-1 with Carmelita in the Quarter-Finals of the Costa Rica Cup.
Oscar Ramirez – nicknamed El Machillo (The Blondie) on account of the blond locks he had as a player – was a popular figure at Alajuelense in the 1980s and early 1990s, winning four titles and the CONCACAF Champions League. He then caused controversy by signing for rivals Deportivo Saprissa - Fulham’s opponents on Saturday.
He was one of the best footballers that Costa Rica has produced, making 75 appearances for the national side and wearing the number 10 shirt at the 1990 World Cup. Now back at Alajuelense as Manager, he has a good relationship with the fans due to his desire to see his side play attractive, exciting football.
Coach Wilmer Lopez describes the philosophy: "We must continue true to our system, which is manage the tempo and keep possession of the ball, linearity during the 90 minutes and intensive movements to hurt the opponent.”
Goalkeeper and captain Patrick Pemberton made his debut for the club in 2006, although he is currently with the national side for their Gold Cup campaign. 24-year-old Allen Guevara is an exciting player and was part of the Costa Rica squad who came fourth at the 2009 Under-20 World Cup, while Luis Miguel Valle has been a consistent performer since making his debut five years ago.
Goalkeepers: 1. Patrick Pemberton, 18. Alfonso Quesada Ramirez, 23. Dexter Lewis
Defenders: 2. Elías Palma, 3. Porfirio López, 4. Kenner Gutiérrez, 6. José Salvatierra, 24. Ariel Soto, 30. Jhonny Acosta Zamora
Midfielders: 5. Cristian Oviedo, 10. Álvaro Sánchez, 13. Luis Miguel Valle, 16. Allen Guevera, 17. Kevin Sancho, 25. Kenneth García, 26. Ariel Rodríguez, 28. Juan Gabriel Guzmán, 29. Jorge Davis
Forwards: 7. Alejandro Delgado, 8. Armando Alonso, 9. Jerry Palacios, 11. Alejandro Aguilar, 15. Johan Ulloa, 21. José Guillermo Ortiz
1 – The number of Elton John concerts held at their stadium.
20 – The retired squad number that was last worn by popular defender Mauricio Montero, who is now a coach at the club.
24 – The number of goals Bryan Ruiz scored during their 2005 title winning season.
27 – They held the highest ever placing of a Central American team in the International Federation of Football History & Statistics world rankings, back in 2000.
197 – The number of times record scorer Errol Daniels found the back of the net for Alajuelense.
Photos courtesy of lda.cr - Alajuelense's official website.