2023 Concacaf Champions League: Whitecaps’ First Opponent

Vancouver Whitecaps FC Forward, Lucas Cavallini, Celebrates a Voyageurs as the Whitecaps' First SCCL Opponent is Real CD España

PREVIEW – On Monday, Vancouver Whitecaps’ first opponent in the 2023 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League was announced as Real CD España. Not many MLS or Whitecaps fans may know about the 12-time Honduran champions. However, today we will be taking a closer look at what kind of team Vancouver will face in the opening fixture of the competition in March.

The Vancouver Whitecaps’ First Opponent: Real CD España

Whitecaps’ First Opponent: Former Powerhouses

In quite recent history, the name Real CD España might not instantly ring a bell for many MLS fans, but Los Aurinegros are one of the most famous clubs to come out of Honduras. They have won the league 12 times, placing them third in the all-time winners behind Motagua (18) and Olimpia (34). They only have won it twice in the last 10 years, meaning that they are not the same team that dominated Honduran football in the mid-to-late 70s, but they are still a formidable team in the league.

While their successes have been sparse in the last decade, in the last year-and-a-half they have had a sort of resurgence under the Argentinian coach Héctor Vargas. They placed second in both the 2021 Apertura and 2022 Clausura seasons, losing the championship out to Olimpia and Motagua, respectively.

This second Clausura season was particularly impressive since they finished the regular season in first place, five points above Olimpia, only losing the title to Motagua in the two-legged final of the knockout stage, 3-2 on aggregate.

A Good Run of Form

Currently, in the 2022 Apertura, they are fourth place in the table, seven points off first-placed Olimpia. While perhaps not the best position to be in, one could excuse their league position if you consider the stellar Concacaf League campaign they just had, spanning from July to early September.

Los Aurinegros pushed themselves all the way to the semi-final, where they lost in a two-legged knockout tie versus eventual silver-medalists LD Alajuelense. Arguably, this run marked their best-ever performance in Concacaf competitions, with only a quarter-final loss in the CONCACAF Champions Cup versus LA Galaxy back in 2000 coming close.

Who To Look Out For

Perhaps their main goal threat is 33-year-old Argentinian Ramiro Rocca. Since joining in 2021, he has had 40 goals in 69 games and was last Clausura season’s top scorer with 11 goals. This season he has 9 goals in all competitions, with three in the league and six in the Concacaf League. With his wealth of experience and 6’1” frame, he could provide to be a headache for any opposing team.

Other threats are the newly-acquired Paraguayan center-forward Pedro Baez, who has scored already four goals in the league, and 24-year-old left-winger Yeison Mejía, who has three assists. And at the back, they have a solid player between the sticks in Luis Lopez who has seven clean sheets in just the eight games he’s started.

Avoiding Complacency Is Key

Now, Real CD España might not be the toughest opponent one might pick out in the entire 2023 SCCL bracket, but to look past them as minnows would be a mistake. They have proven that they can fight hard in different environments, and push past their weight in two-legged ties.

And while one could forgive fans and players for widening their eyes in a potentially mouth-watering quarter-final draw versus newly-appointed MLS Champion LAFC, Whitecaps must first overcome this resurgent Honduran side to begin their quest for the 2023 SCCL title; to underestimate them could be tragic.

The Vancouver Whitecaps FC made the Concacaf Champions League thanks to winning the Voyageurs Cup in penalties against Toronto FC in the 2022 Canadian Championship Final. This will be Vancouver’s third appearance in the Concacaf Champions League and first appearance since the 2016-17 Concacaf Champions League edition.


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