Preview | Revs welcome LD Alajuelense to Foxborough for first leg of Champions Cup Round of 16


Concacaf Champions Cup | Round of 16 | Leg 1
New England Revolution vs. Liga Deportiva Alajuelense
Wednesday, March 6 | 6 p.m. ET
Gillette Stadium | Foxborough, Mass.

Watch: FS2 (English), TUDN (Spanish)
Listen: 1260 AM Nossa Radio (Portuguese)


New England Revolution
14th in MLS Eastern Conference (0-2-0, 0 pts.)
Last Result (MLS) | 1-0 loss vs. Toronto FC
Round One (CCC) | 4-0 aggregate win vs. CA Independiente

Tomás Chancalay scored in both legs as the Revs eased past CA Independiente in Round One, claiming a 4-0 aggregate win to book their place in the Concacaf Champions Cup Round of 16. Chancalay bagged the game’s only goal in a 1-0 road win, then found the net again – along with Nacho Gil and Mark-Anthony Kaye – in a comprehensive 3-0 triumph in Leg 2. Now the Revs will renew acquaintances with LD Alajuelense, a club they’ve faced twice before in this competition in 2003 and 2006.

Balancing both cup competition and league play, the Revs have gotten off to a slower start in MLS action. They most recently suffered a 1-0 loss to Toronto FC in their home opener this past weekend, though head coach Caleb Porter and his players were encouraged by a performance which saw the Revs outshoot the visitors by a margin of 19-8 only to be denied by a stellar showing from TFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

Liga Deportiva Alajuelense
3rd in Liga de Fútbol de Primera División (6-2-3, 21 pts.)
Last Result (Liga FPD) | 4-0 win vs. Santos de Guápiles
Round One (CCC) | Bye

LD Alajuelense are no strangers to Concacaf Champions Cup, having won the competition twice before in 1986 and 2004. Los Leones qualified for this edition of the tournament as champions of the 2023 Central American Cup, claiming not only a trophy but also a trip directly to the Round of 16.

Second-place finishers in the 2023 Apertura, Alajuelense are off to yet another strong start in the current campaign, sitting third in the Liga de Fútbol de Primera División with six wins, three draws, and just two losses from their first 11 games. They’ve been particularly strong defensively, conceding just nine goals while keeping five clean sheets.


Revolution midfielder Matt Polster
Caleb Porter has said he wants his side to dominate games in possession – particularly at home – and central midfielder Matt Polster plays a particularly important role in that process as he patrols the middle of the park. Polster has started each of the Revolution’s first four games – two in Champions Cup and two in the league – playing all but 13 minutes through the early part of the season.

Porter said last week that Polster is “an ideal player as one of the two double pivots in a 4-2-3-1” and he’ll be a starter and key player in the Revolution’s midfield, and the task now is determining who will pair alongside Polster from the group of Noel Buck, Mark-Anthony Kaye, and Ian Harkes.

Alajuelense forward Joel Campbell
There will be several recognizable names on the Alajuelense roster – Costa Rica national team stalwart Celso Borges and former CF Montréal and Minnesota United winger Johan Venegas among them – but perhaps none will stand out more than Joel Campbell. The 31-year-old forward most notably spent time with Arsenal in the English Premier League, while also scoring 27 goals in 135 appearances for Costa Rica.

Campbell spent recent years in Liga MX with Club León and C.F. Monterrey, but joined Alajuelense last June and has bagged four goals in the current campaign, including a brace in Alajuelense’s 4-0 win over Santos de Guápiles last Friday.


Revolution head coach Caleb Porter on managing a busy stretch of games:
“It’s difficult, extremely difficult, because you're not conditioned to do it. I mean, it's not really made, this game, to be played every two days, three days, like we're doing, but especially when you're not conditioned early in the year to do it. So, I'm real proud of the guys that they've been grinding. I said that to them today, it's on to the next. Mentally and physically it's a grind, and we have got to keep grinding. We’ve got to stay mentally strong and keep our energy up, and that's what we're going to do. It's difficult. You would have liked to have the bye week like Atlanta has when we play them this weekend. That would have helped, but those are things you’ve got to manage in this league. We've been playing teams in the league that are completely fresh, that get a full week, in Atlanta’s case two weeks to prepare, and we're basically just recovering in one day and preparing one day to play. So, there's no excuses. You’ve got to find a way to get it done in this league, and these are the challenges when you're in the Champions Cup. It's a reward because you did well, but also now it's a challenge to start your year and you’ve got to find a way to manage it. So, we will rotate this game a little bit like we've been doing, maybe even a little bit more just to make sure we have energy and that we're fresh physically. We have to be very smart, because not only are we trying to win the leg and advance, we don't want to get injured. So, there's a lot of discussions, a lot of hours spent in tight windows preparing, making decisions, and trying to do the right thing so that we win all these games, and it hasn't fallen for us in the league, but we can't do anything about that now. We've got to put that aside and focus now on getting the job done in this first leg against Alajuelense. We need to get an advantage in that first leg going back to the away leg.”

Porter on playing the first leg at home ahead of a trip to Costa Rica:
“They put the advantage at home second leg, because you know what you need to do. So, it's really important that we use our advantage in this first leg to hopefully set ourselves up for the second half of the series, and then put ourselves in a good spot in the aggregate. You know, can we get a clean sheet? Very important, because now the away goals, and can we win the game, and can we have a little bit of a margin? That won't be easy. When you go from the Panamanian team to the Costa Rican team, the level goes higher. They have more quality. They have bigger budgets. They have more talent. They've got a lot of internationals on their team. They have some very good players who've played in World Cups. They have Joe Campbell, who played at some of the top clubs in the world. And so, it's definitely a notch up this leg. This team we’re playing, it's going to be harder for us to advance. In saying that, I think we have a good plan. I'm confident that we're going to have good energy in the game. Our mentality, like I said, is very strong. We have a good read on this opponent, and we rolled out the scout today and the guys are ready.”

Porter on preparing for Alajuelense:
”The level goes up. No disrespect to CAI in the Panamanian league, but the Costa Rican Premier League is a notch higher, and they have bigger budgets, which means more talent, and I'm very impressed with their team. I watched their game versus Saprissa. It was 0-0. There's a good level in Costa Rica, and when you look at the rosters, you have a lot of players with a ton of experience, international players who have played, like I said, in World Cups and played in top leagues. I think they [Alajuelense] are a very technical team. They're a very tactical team, and they're very good with the ball. Their spacing is good, some of their rotations are interesting, and how they look to open you up in the attack, Very impressive, their attacking play, and they've got very good players, talented players in every position, experienced players in every position.”

Revolution defender Dave Romney on managing a busy start to the season:
“It's definitely a grind, but it's kind of similar to preseason. Preseason is always a grind, so you just kind of went straight from that into a full game stretch and it's definitely, I'd say, a disadvantage not having more training time, especially when you've got a new coaching system and stuff like that, but they've done a good job trying to give us a very clear game plan from game to game. And just focusing on what we want to keep building on week in and week out as a team and kind of how he [Caleb Porter] wants to play, then also kind of tailoring each game specifically to kind of counter the weaknesses or strengths of the other team. So, it's a grind physically, mentally, all the above. I think we're managing it the best we can, obviously, and yeah, I know a lot of other teams are in our shoes as well, so there’s no excuses.”

Romney on playing the first leg at home:
“I mean, my point of view is just a clean sheet and eliminating any away goals for them [LD Alajuelense]. That will give us a big advantage going down there. And then, obviously, scoring some goals here because it's never easy to play in Central America and they're a good team. I'm sure it'll be a hostile environment when we go down there, so just setting ourselves up as good as we can.”

Romney on his experiences with Costa Rican teammates:
“All of them are extremely talented, very smart, technically gifted, and really good athletes. I can't say enough about Costa Rican players. You've seen it on the international level. Costa Rica has gone far in the World Cup before, and it's a very talented country for the size that it is. So, definitely not taking this lightly at all. We know they're a very good team and we're excited to play them honestly, because I've had three really good teammates as Costa Ricans.”