And so here we are, sports fans: the last game of the Libertadores season for Nacional. The only thing the Tricolores had to play for was avoiding their worst ever showing in a group stage. A win in Porto Alegre against group winner Gremio would do that and lift them out of last place in the overall group stage standings (not that it counts for anything, but it’s still pretty embarrassing). Unfortunately, Nacional fell again to a clearly superior Gremio. Although the final score was only 1-0, and that on an early penalty kick, it’s still a loss, the latest in a string of 9 in their last 11 games counting both international and local tournaments. The press is calling this the worst stretch of Nacional’s history; aren’t you glad you were here to witness it?
There’s not much to say about the game that wouldn’t sound like I just stole from my previous posts: despite the return of Iván Alonso and the all-out effort of Santiago “el Morro” García, Nacional just didn’t have any offense to speak of. Sadly, the closest Nacional came to a goal was a last minute shot by another returning star, goalie Gustavo Munúa. The defense was shaky but held their ground, thanks in large part to Munúa’s heroics. We didn’t really see much of budding striker Juan Cruz Mascia (he came in near the end of the game), and we still aren’t sure how this team is going to right the ship. At this point they’ve fallen to fourth place in the local tournament, which would keep them out of the Libertadores for the first time since 1996, so I may not even get the chance to refuse to do this again next year. At least this game saw the return of Sebastián Coates, who has been on loan from Liverpool (yes, that Liverpool) while rehabbing a torn CL of some sort. Coates came in to begin the second half and logged some much-needed minutes as he tries to help Nacional avoid total disaster and pushes for a place in Uruguay’s World Cup roster. Good luck, Seba!
This is a team in disarray. The best they can hope for at this point is that they somehow pull enough of themselves back together to hang on to a spot in next year’s Libertadores while taking a long, hard look at the current roster and begin planning what Nacional will look like for the 2014-15 season. There are a lot of youngsters that got significant playing time: some thrived, and some made little case for expanded roles on next year’s team. A lot of veterans will be saying their goodbyes, and it will fall to coach Gerardo Pelusso and GM Alejandro Lembo to scour the trading wires to find enough pieces to turn things around, which is always a challenge when the money is short and the fan base expectations long. Here’s hoping Pelusso rediscovers the magic he created the last time he was at the helm. Until then, hey, have you heard about the 1980 team?
Featured image courtesy of: Bolavip.com
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