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Hello fans! It’s El Bolso with another update on Uruguayan soccer. The Apertura is finally over, so I have some things to say about that, plus some notes on players doing well abroad. Let’s get to it!

 

Lucky 14

 

Nacional’s two Alvaros, Recoba and Gutiérrez, share a tender moment in the middle of picking the Uruguayan League apart.

 

Nacional finished out the year in the usual form, beating last place Tacuarembó 1-0. This wasn’t the prettiest of games, but the Tricolores traveled into the Uruguayan hinterlands (to the alleged birthplace of tango legend Carlos Gardel) and managed a win against a team desperate to avoid relegation. The team managed several good chances (most of them off the foot of Alvaro Recoba of course) but it took 59 minutes for the scoreline to change, courtesy of a sweet Recoba pass and, prepare to be shocked, a gifted finish by Iván Alonso. That’s been a pretty successful formula for Nacional this semester, and they used it again on Saturday. Meanwhile, River Plate lost to Danubio 2-1, falling 17 points behind the leader, and Peñarol did likewise, going up 2-0 at the half only to lose a 3-2 heartbreaker to league runner-up Racing. That one stung a little more because they not only fell 17 points back of the lead, but they also lost ground to the team immediately above them in the table.

 

The final tally for the tournament: Nacional wins it with 42 points of a possible 45, 10 points ahead of Racing and 17 points in front of the two third place teams. The champions had the bets offense (34 goals, 2 ahead of Racing) and the best defense (7 goals conceded, less than half as many as the next best team). they had the league’s top scorer in Alonso (15 goals, one per game and 4 more than his closest competitor), and a goalie that went just shy of 8 consecutive games without giving up a goal. This was a monster campaign, one that leaves Nacional well-positioned for the next semester in which they will have to compete in the Libertadores as well as the local league. For coach Alvaro Gutiérrez, who was made interim coach for the last three games of last season after Gerardo Pelusso was shamed into quitting, this is the 17th win in 18 games as head coach, which is just crazy. The next big task for the Tricolores will be to try to hang on to as much of this team as possible over the next couple of months, and El Bolso will be here to give you the details as the offseason progresses.

 

As for the rest of the league, they have a lot of catching up to do, and the traditional bi-annual player and coach exodus will make that even tougher. It looks like all three of Nacional’s closest followers will have new coaches come January: Peñarol let go of Jorge Fossati after the derby loss and has been making do with reserve team coach Paolo Montero (which is the job Gutiérrez had when he was asked to take over at Nacional). However, any chance that Montero would get the full time job likely died with that three goal second half barrage by Racing. With the club elections five days away the rumors and alleged promises are flying, so we’ll have to wait for the smoke to clear before we know what’s going to happen there. At Racing, manager Marcelo Larriera (who spent many years as the top assistant to Pelusso) is rumored to be looking for opportunities abroad, leveraging La Escuelita’s historic campaign. And the situation at River Plate is similarly murky, as coach Guillermo Almada may also be on the way out after a successful multi-year stint at the Darseneros. Think about that: the teams that came in second through fourth may all end up losing or dumping their coaches. You have to love Uruguayan fútbol. Meanwhile, Gutiérrez is calmly going to work every day, putting together a plan for the second half of the year and probably saying “It’s good ta be da king!” to himself about every five minutes.

 

In international competition news, the Chilean season ended this weekend, and the pool of potential Libertadores first round playoff opponents was reduced from 9 to just 4. The scariest possible rival, Universidad de Chile, won the Apertura and booked themselves a place in the group stage, leaving Santiago Wanderers, Huachipato, Palestino and Unión Española to fight it out for the last spot. We’ll know later on this month who ends up being the Tricolores’ rival.

 

Goals, goals, and more goals!

 

José Giménez and Diego Godín celebrate the former’s goal against Elche by showing they’re even more secure in their masculinity than Recoba and Gutiérrez. 

 

Geez, there were a ton of Uruguayan goals in Europe this week! Let’s review:

  • France: Midweek, Edinson Cavani got ready for this Wednesday’s Uruguayan Champions League showdown against Luis Suárez‘s Barcelona by scoring PSG’s lone goal in a 1-1 tie with Lille. PSG remains two points off the lead in the French League.
  • Spain: The Atlético Madrid Uruguayans are still going strong: José Giménez scored his first official goal as a member of the Colchoneros in a 2-0 win against Elche, Diego Godín was named to the November La Liga top performers team, and even Cristian “Cebolla” Rodríguez got into the act. “The Onion” finally got meaningful minutes in the team’s Copa del Rey game against l’Hospitalet and scored in a 3-0 win. Other notables included Cristian Stuani (both Espanyol goals in a 2-0 Copa win against Alavés) and Marcelo Silva (Las Palmas), Facundo Guichón (Alcorcón), and Jorge Díaz (Albacete) in second division weekend matches.
  • Italy: Pablo Granoche knew he was carrying a huge responsibility after having his picture on the Charrúa Report last week, and he was up to the challenge, scoring twice in Modena’s Coppa Italia game against first division Cagliari, which ended in a 4-4 tie. Granoche then converted during the penalty shootout but Modena was not able to capitalize, so they are out of the competition. Still, Granoche is lighting it up right now, with six goals in the last week. Diego Laxalt also put in good work in the Coppa, opening the scoring in a 2-0 Empoli win against Genoa.
  • Romania: The semifinals of the Romanian cup are all set, and Uruguayans played a big part. Juan Albín scored a last minute game winner for Petrolul Ploiesti, and Pablo Ceppelini came in as a second half sub for Universitatea Cluj and scored the game’s only goal on his first touch.
  • Russia: Nacional has been selling players to Russian teams like it’s going out of style lately, and one of them had a big impact on the Krasnodar derby this week: midfielder Mauricio Pereyra opened the scoring for Krasnodar FC in a 1-1 tie against Kuban Krasnodar. Another young Tricolor promise, forward Gonzalo Bueno, was on the bench for Kuban and is rumored to be exploring a loan back to Nacional for the first half of 2015.
  • Switzerland: Finally, it was a Uruguayan party during the appropriately named Lugano FC’s 3-1 win against Le Mont. Defender Matías Malvino scored the first goal, and forward Sergio Cortelezzi, yet another young Nacional product, followed up with two more goals to seal the win.

 

And that’s all for this week, friends. The offseason starts next week, at least in Uruguay, but we’ll still have plenty to talk about. Until then, here’s your last Pasión Tricolor of the year:

El Bolso

About El Bolso

El Bolso is Uruguay’s foremost soccer-fan-in-exile, a true authority on the Celeste and its favored son, the Club Nacional de Football. He believes in precision passing, tireless marking, and strong finishing, and is not above the occasional slide tackle from behind when the situation calls for it.

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