Moca FC's Argentine striker Ascona eyes possible Champions Cup clash with countryman Messi

By Sports Desk January 20, 2024
Gustavo Ascona in action for Dominican Republic outfit Moca FC Gustavo Ascona in action for Dominican Republic outfit Moca FC Concacaf.com

When the Draw for the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup took place last month, players from qualified teams to contest Round one waited with bated breath to see where in the bracket their team would be placed.

In fact, much of the anxiety around the announcement was focused on which Round One winner would advance to face last year’s Leagues Cup Champions Inter Miami –the team of Argentina superstar Lionel Messi –in the Round of 16.

In the end, the draw pooled another Major League Soccer (MLS) Nashville SC and Dominican Republic’s Moca FC as Round one opponents, and the two will crosswords to decide who will oppose Messi’s side in the Round of 16.

For Moca’s striker Gustavo Ascona, who is an Argentinian by birth, defeating Nashville and playing against Messi would be the opportunity of a lifetime.

“Playing against Messi would be my life’s dream, like for any Argentine. I went home for vacation at the holidays and everyone in my hometown was talking about me playing against Messi. It’s crazy, and it would be a dream. You really can’t describe it any other way,” Ascona said in a recent interview with Concacaf.com.

“We have to keep our feet on the ground, work hard in the first game, get the biggest advantage possible that we can get here at home and later we’ll see what happens,” he added.

Ascona is well aware that getting by their Round one opponents Nashville is no easy feat, but at the same time, he believes the task is by no means impossible, provided Moca executes efficiently against the 2023 Leagues Cup runners-up.

He recalled Haitian club Violette’s victory over MLS side Austin FC in last season Round of 16 as proof that Caribbean teams can get the job done.

“We know that it (Nashville) is a really difficult opponent. We know what kind of league they play in, but we have confidence in ourselves. We know what we can give, and sometimes football brings surprises. Just look at what Violette did last season. Why can’t we repeat that?” Ascona asked rhetorically.

The 36-year-old attacker enjoyed good form for Moca in the 2023 Concacaf Caribbean Cup, as he scored four goals over the course of eight games. It took a last-second equalizer by eventual champions Robinhood of Suriname, to defeat Moca FC in the semi-final.

However, Ascona and company were still able to secure a coveted spot in the Champions Cup with victory over Jamaican club Harbour View in the third-place decider.

“It was really hard, because we had other objectives and we had the game in Suriname in which they scored in the last minute, and we lost in penalties. That was a tough blow. But we regrouped to try to get that last spot, we set out to make it ours and we got it, so it was satisfying,” Ascona shared.

“It was hard and tough to keep a positive mindset because we had come off of losing another final in the domestic league here. It was really tough in Jamaica. It was a positive to get a win there and then manage the game here, but they fought until the very end,” he noted.

Reaching the Champions Cup was also a historical moment for Moca, as it marked the first ever Champions Cup qualification for the club. They now join Cibao FC and Atletico Pantoja as Dominican Republican clubs to achieve the feat in recent years.

That accomplishment and, by extension, the responsibility as the country’s lone representative on this occasion, is something that Ascona doesn’t take lightly.

“The truth is that when one arrives to a team, you always think about making history, in leaving something. This is my third year with Moca and thankfully things are going well for me. Now we’ll just see if we can keep progressing in this stage that we are in and play against some of the other big clubs in the tournament,” Ascona reasoned.

“It’s really wonderful to have that responsibility of being the only Dominican team in this tournament. I think every fan of Dominican football is going to be following that game, so we are going to have the support of a lot of people,” he ended.

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