HEREDIA, COSTA RICA – Carlo Cudicini has seen it all in Europe— Champions League ties, FA Cup matches, and everything in between, but on Thursday night, he got a taste of something entirely different—the CONCACAF Champions League.
Cudicini made his CCL debut in Thursday’s scoreless draw against C.S. Herediano in the first leg of the Champions League Quarterfinal. The match was just Cudicini’s second full appearance with the club and saw the Italian pitted against a raucous crowd at the Estadio Eladio Rosabal Cordero that did all they could to break the veteran. Although road crowds generally the focal point when it comes to CCL, Cudicini maintained his composure.
“Crowd wasn’t too bad. It was okay. In my opinion, with the turf and the wind, it’s already difficult to play on turf, but with the wind, it was even worse,” said Cudicini. “That was probably the worst and the fact that we came away with a good result is a positive. Now we have the second leg at home, and we need to win. It’s as simple as that.”
The crowd may not have played a major factor for Cudicini, but the FieldTurf and swirling winds caused a few nervy moments for the Italian. Whether it was a shot that knuckled after contact with the turf or lofty cross that changed direction in the wind, Cudicini admits that the conditions were far from ideal.
“It wasn’t the best conditions to play in and the turf doesn’t help to put on a nice show out there,” said Cudicini. “At the end, the team did very well and we didn’t concede much so this was good.”
But the turf and the wind could not stop Cudicini from making an impact in the game’s most decisive moment. In the 86th minute, Sean Franklin was whistled for a highly-questionable foul after minimal contact with Herediano’s Ismael Gomez in the box that set up a penalty kick for the home side.
As Gomez stepped up to take the kick that seemed destined to give Herediano the victory, Cudicini delivered a little stutter step that seemed to distract the attacker.
“I saw that he was a bit nervous so I tried to mess up his concentration,” said Cudicini. “In the end, he just hit the bar.”
With the first leg firmly behind the two clubs, Cudicini believes that the change in venue will only help LA in their quest to reach the semifinals.
“We will be able to play more football [at The HDC], which was difficult [in Costa Rica] because of the wind at the turf,” said Cudicini. “Hopefully, we can play more our game and it will be the difference.”