Ronald Matarrita begins his fifth season with New York City FC by returning to his hometown for the first leg of the Concacaf Champions League on Thursday night.
San Carlos of Costa Rica hosts NYCFC at Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto in the El Llano neighborhood of Alejuela in the first leg of the Round of 16.
Matarrita grew up just a short walk from the stadium – the home of his first professional team, LD Alajuelense.
“I feel really happy that my friends and family are coming out to support me,” Matarrita told reporters on Wednesday. “It’s the same stadium and some of the same fans that were here for me in the past that will be here.”
Matarrita was 19 years old when he debuted for Alajuelense in the Primera Division Clausura in 2014 and made 67 appearances over three seasons.
During his time with Los Leones, Matarrita appeared in five Concacaf Champions League matches – including rounds against D.C. United and the Montreal Impact in 2015.
“The experience is not something that’s new for me,” Matarrita said.” I’ve had the opportunity to play CCL twice against two MLS teams.”
Matarrita was a left midfielder out of a 4-4-2 shape in both legs for Alajuelense to advance past D.C. United in the quarterfinals, while playing wing back in a 3-5-2 set up in two matches versus the Impact. Montreal reached the finals on penalties and ultimately lost to Mexican side Club America.
Matarrita is expected to start Thursday’s match at left back in a 4-3-3 system in the midst of friends and family who are seeing him the first time in an NYCFC jersey.
“Most of my family has not seen me play for another international team,” said Matarrita, who has earned 26 caps for his country. “It’s going to be really nice for me, but also for them. They have seen me play with the Costa Rican national team, but most of them haven’t been able to come to New York to see me play. So now they get to see me play with New York City here.”
A serendipitous moment for Matarrita — but not their opponent — the San Carlos facility did not meet Concacaf standards and the Toros Del Norte were forced to play their “home match” two hours away in Alejuela.
Concacaf also denied the home venue proposals from New York City FC, which will host the second leg at Red Bull Arena February 26.
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