In a Spanish football season with more than its fair share of surprises, AD Alcorcón are possibly the biggest of them all.
This season’s Segunda Division is stacked with La Liga pedigree. You have former Champions Deportivo La Coruña, former holders of the European Cup Winners Cup Real Zaragoza (Nayim from the halfway line and all that), 2013 Champions League quarter finalists Málaga and that’s not even mentioning big clubs with passionate supports like Oviedo, Sporting, Las Palmas, Mallorca and more besides. Yet at the time of writing, little Alcorcón sit looking down on all of them, boasting the best defensive record in any of the professional leagues in Spain.
How then, has this comparatively tiny club (stadium capacity 7,000) reached such a position?
Punching Above Their Weight
This is very much unchartered territory for Alcorcón, Their highest ever finish in La Segunda came in 2012, when they came fourth and qualified for the promotion play-offs, only just missing out on an unlikely promotion by losing 2-1 on aggregate to Valladolid.
But for most football fans, there’s probably one reason the name AD Alcorcón rings a bell, a match deemed significant enough to have its own Wikipedia page – the Alcorcónazo.
In 2009, Alcorcón qualified for the Last 32 of the Copa del Rey and for their first ever competitive game against a top flight side they were paired with Real Madrid who that summer had just broken the world transfer record twice in the space of a few weeks to sign Kaka and then Cristiano Ronaldo. Neither of them played at the Estadio Santo Domingo on 27th October 2009, but Madrid still named a side featuring Raúl, Guti, Karim Benzema and Rafael van der Vaart with Marcelo and Ruud van Nistelrooy among the substitutes. Yet Alcorcón won 4-0, a famous humbling for los blancos, made even worse when they were only able to win 1-0 in the return leg. To further illustrate how big an upset this was, Alcorcón played in the same league as Madrid’s B team, Castilla, that season.
Since 2014 they have been owned by the controversial Belgian businessman and politician Roland Duchatelet, who also owns Hungarian side Ujpest, German outfit Carl Zeiss Jena and most infamously, Charlton Athletic, where fans have been protesting against his ownership for years as the club has struggled in League One.
So if you’ve been captivated by the potential fairytale taking place in an unassuming southwestern corner of Madrid and fancy jumping on the bandwagon, here’s your essential guide to visiting the Estadio Santo Domingo!
Despite it appearing to be quite a distance from central Madrid, getting to Alcorcón is not difficult. As with most grounds outside Zone A, the Cercanias from Atocha is your best bet, specifically line C5 heading towards Mostoles-El Soto. Get off at Las Retamas rather than Alcorcón, the ground is a decent distance outside the centre and you can save yourself a long walk by getting off at the later stop. The train journey from Atocha is about 23 minutes and the walk to the ground around 10 at most. The return Cercanias fare from Atocha is €3,70.
Once again it is possible, but not recommended, to get there via Metro, taking Line 10 to Puerta del Sur and changing to Line 12. Alcorcón Central is the second stop heading westward from there, Once you get there, you’ll need to walk the rest of the way, or hop on a Cercanias to Las Retamas. The Metro journey takes around 40 minutes (starting at Plaza de España) and bear in mind that you’ll need a valid Zone B1 ticket to exit the station in Alcorcón.
Despite the small size of the ground, you shouldn’t have any issues getting tickets. Last season their average attendance was 2,870, the fourth lowest in the Segunda.
Prices are €20 for the stands behind the goals and the two-tier Grada Lateral, all of which are uncovered, while the smaller, but covered, Tribuna costs €30. As it’s a small, compact ground you’ll get a pretty good view wherever you sit.
If you don’t feel like waiting in a queue at the stadium, they do have an online purchase option, which is always welcome.
Around the Ground
First things first, the Estadio Santo Domingo is not your typical Spanish club ground. It is actually part of a larger municipal sports complex, which also contains an Athletics stadium, a Swimming pool, tennis courts and a number of all weather football pitches. These are typically busy at weekends with local amateur matches, so if you’re early or wanting to hang around afterwards, there’ll at least be some football to watch!
For refreshments and pre-match atmosphere, there are a few bars located on nearby Calle de Las Retamas, while the stadium itself boasts a decent bar. Once inside, the food stands offer some pretty decent bocadillos or you can buy a slice of pizza, freshly ordered from Domino’s.
For the souvenir collectors amongst you, there is only a small hole in the wall shop, but it is very well stocked with replica kits, training gear and more than one variety of scarf!
As I said before, the ground itself is nice and compact, albeit a bit open and exposed to the elements. There’s a small singing section behind the goal at the southern end of the stadium where the most vocal home fans can be found, while away fans are generally housed at the opposite end. However, both games I’ve attended have featured historically big clubs with large travelling supports and as a result, fans have mixed pretty freely without any problems.
Considering Alcorcón’s success this season has been built on a solid defence, you could be forgiven for thinking they are a safety-first, contain the opposition side.
Manager Cristobal Parralo got his big break in coaching early last season when he was handed the reins at Depor following an impressive spell in charge of the B Team. Unfortunately for him, he couldn’t inspire any great turnaround in their fortunes and was fired following a heavy defeat to Real Sociedad in February. It looks bad on his CV, but to be fair to Parralo, Pep Guardiola would have had difficulty getting a tune out of that bunch of players. Alcorcón’s early season victory over Depor in this campaign will have no doubt tastes particularly sweet to him.
Alcorcón generally like to build out from the back and then try to get their pacy wide players involved, though they are certainly capable of mixing it up as well (their game-clinching second against Zaragoza this weekend coming from a long free kick nodded down into the path of striker Jonathan Pereira) and they’ve got the odd spectacular goal in their locker. Both strikes in the win against Oviedo back in September fall into the aesthetically pleasing category – particularly Juan Muñoz’s free kick in off the bar.
But it’s the defence that we really have to focus on. In 15 Segunda matches so far this season, Alcorcón have kept a staggering eleven clean sheets. The Yellow Wall of Alcorcón has only let in six goals in the league (three of them coming in one game, their most recent defeat away to Tenerife) and boast a defensive record better than any side in Spanish professional football.
Largely unheralded names make up the team, the club captain Laure is possibly the most well-known, having previously spent ten years at Depor and since joining Alcorcón at the start of last season, he has played in every single game – a real feat considering the endurance test that is the 42 game Segunda season. Then there is the argentine centre half Esteban Burgos, whose penalty-scoring heroics in recent weeks have helped his team climb to the top and stay there.
With the season now over a third of the way completed, the big question is can they keep this up? My answer at the minute would be a tentative yes.
I’ve been really impressed with them the two times I’ve seen them live this season. Against Oviedo, they won with little difficulty and then against Zaragoza, they dealt really well with the difficult conditions to come out on top. The Segunda is a notoriously difficult league to get out of, but if their defence can hold firm, they won’t lose many games and the spirit that clearly exists in the squad will help them through many tight matches.
Recent history has proved that being a small club is no obstacle to gaining promotion to La Liga. Eibar, Leganés and most recently Huesca have all won La Segunda in the last few years, ahead of much more illustrious names. Maybe Alcorcón can do the same. It’s going to be fun finding out.