[dropcap]H[/dropcap]ello fans! The hits just keep on coming here at the Charrúa Report! This week we have a humble team making history, and all the details on how Uruguayan teams did in the first week of Libertadores group stage action. Let’s get to it!
35 Years Later
History was made this weekend, friends, and not the kind El Bolso likes. The Institución Atlética Sud América (IASA for short) is a humble neighborhood team, founded in 1914. They’ve spent most of the past three decades in the lower divisions of Uruguayan soccer, but won the 2013 Second Division title and a promotion to the top flight just in time to celebrate its centennial, and managed to stick around for a second season. They’re known as the Buzones (the mailboxes) because back in the day mailboxes in Uruguay were bright orange, which is the color the team chose for their jersey. Well, they chose red, but when they went to the store to buy fabric for the shirts all that was left was orange cloth. Other than that, the most interesting facts about IASA is that they threw Montevideo’s best-known public dance parties back in the day, and they were one of the stops in El Bolso’s brief and undistinguished youth soccer career (I attended one practice; they were not impressed).
Anyway, on Saturday, IASA broke a 35 year drought by beating my beloved Tricolores 2-1. That’s not as impressive a streak as it sounds, given that the two teams have only spent a handful of years in the same division since then, but it’s still not the kind of thing you want to have happen when you’re supposed to be cruising to your first League title in 3 years. Nacional was a sad shadow of its Apertura self once again, and has now fallen 5 points behind a rejuvenated Peñarol in the Clausura table. They’re still 11 points ahead in the Annual standings, thanks to Racing’s own collapse, but the Manyas are now only 12 points behind, and gaining. It will be interesting to see how Alvaro Gutiérrez reacts in the coming weeks, as the rumor mill begins to churn and his position becomes a little less secure. Nacional is still in great position as far as competing for the League title and qualifying for the 2016 Libertadores, but they need to start showing some of the form that made them such a juggernaut just a couple of months ago. The good news is that Iván Alonso is back to his old tricks, scoring the team’s only goal in the 57th minute, but they’ll need more than that to get back on track. Like, perhaps, getting Gustavo Munua back from injury, because Jorge Bava was horrendous on Saturday. The last time I saw a keeper that was this helpful to the opposing side, he was wearing a Spain jersey in Brazil.
Libertadores Cup Update
The Libertadores group stage got started this week. Of course Nacional was not a part of it; we covered why last week. But there are two Uruguayan teams still in the running, and both had home games this week. Up first was a Tuesday night Group 5 match between Montevideo Wanderers and reigning Venezuelan league champion Zamora FC. Even though the competition is just getting started this was a huge game for Wanderers: with Boca Juniors and Palestino rounding out the group the going will get tough, and Zamora could be looked at as the weak link in the group. So a win, especially at home (well, at Nacional’s Parque Central, because someone may as well be using it during the week), was crucial.
This was just a nutty game. Half an hour in the teams were playing 10 on 10 because of red cards to Zamora’s Angel Faría (20th minute) and Wanderers’ Adrian Colombino (31st minute). At that point Zamora was up 1-0 on a 26th minute goal, so it was looking bleak for the Bohemios (as Wanderers is known, possibly because they like to paint and smoke pot and not have jobs?), but just as the first half was coming to a close Gaston Rodriguez tied the game and gave his team renewed hope. It didn’t last long, as Zamora went back out in front 10 minutes into the second half (on a and looked to bring home 3 very important points. The turning point, however, came 15 minutes from time. Venezuelan defender Luis Ovalle clumsily allowed sub Leandro Reymundez to get by him and into the penalty box, then compounded his mistake by taking the Uruguayan down from behind. Ovalle was red-carded, leaving his team with 9 players, and Nicolás Albarracin converted the ensuing penalty kick to draw the game at 2 apiece. Taking advantage of the extra player, Wanderers pushed forward and found a third goal on an 82nd minute header by Reymundez (why was that guy on the bench?), sealing a great come from behind win. The only other excitement came in added time, when Zamora’s John Jairo Murillo and our old friend Juan Cruz Mascia (on a 6 month loan from Nacional) were thrown out of the game for scuffling. 5 goals, 5 red cards, and 3 very important points for Wanderers before next week’s trip to La Bombonera to face Boca Juniors. Boca won on the road at Palestino, 2-0 (new acquisition Nicolás Lodeiro came on in the 61st minute and assisted on the second goal), which also helps Wanderers: it’s pretty much a given that Boca will earn one of the two knockout round spots, so the more points the other two teams lose the better.
In Group 2, defending Uruguayan league champion Danubio hosted the current Libertadores title-holders, Argentina’s San Lorenzo de Almagro. It’s not easy having your first game against an Argentinian powerhouse, especially when they have god on their side, but with Brazilian powers Sao Paulo and Corinthians rounding out the group, Danubio needed a positive result at home, and for most of the game it looked as if they would get it. 10 minutes into the game some pretty shoddy defending by San Lorenzo in their own penalty box allowed Danubio’s Matías Castro to put one in the net, and the 1-0 lead held up for most of the rest of the game. In the end, however, it was not to be. Goals by Mauro Matos in the 86th minute and Mauro Cetto in the 88th allowed the Cuervos (the Crows) to steal this one. By the way, that nickname didn’t come about because San Lorenzo players like to come back from the dead to kill the people who murdered them; it’s because the team is named after a local priest, and in Argentina Crows is a popular nickname for Catholic priests because of their black uniforms.
Anyway. Danubio is absolutely screwed. Next week they travel to Sao Paulo to take on the desperate locals (who are in last place after a 2-0 loss at Corinthians), but it’s hard to see where they’re going to find enough points to move on. This is a tough group. Danubio had its chance and missed it by 5 minutes.
Around the Globe
Paris St. Germain is in trouble in the Champions League, but it’s not Edinson Cavani’s fault. The Uruguayan, rumored to be Diego Simeone’s main ask in contract extension negotiations with Atlético Madrid, scored in the 56th minute of last week’s home game against Chelsea, helping PSG to a 1-1 tie in the CL’s round of 16. Amid rumors that the team is getting ready to dump him because of friction with fellow striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Cavani keeps doing what he does best: scoring CL goals. His 6th tally in this year’s competition has him tied with some guy you may have heard of for third place in the scorers’ table. Still, it will be tough for PSG to get out of London with a quarterfinal berth; they’ll have a much better chance if Zlatan decides to show up this time.
Matías Vecino left Nacional for Fiorentina two years ago, and he’s just now starting to show his true potential. After mediocre stints with the Firenze team (6 games in 2013) and on loan at Cagliari (9 games last season) he’s settled into a rhythm at Empoli. Vecino was the mastermind of this weekend’s 3-0 defeat of Chievo Verona, handing out 2 assists and deftly managing Empoli’s attack. At this pace, we might see him back with the Viola next season, if some bigger fish doesn’t snap him up first.
Hey, remember that whole Peñarol coaching debacle a few weeks ago? Well, it looks like Diego Aguirre made the right decision after all. The woulda-coulda-shoulda Manya coach got upset when the club’s Executive council dared ask for checks and balances on his power, so he took a job at Internacional of Porto Alegre. Just a few weeks later, Aguirre’s performance has made the coach a household name on Twitter, as the hashtag #ForaAguirre (Aguirre go away) is trending in both Brazil and Uruguay after Inter’s surprising 3-1 loss to The Strongest in the Libertadores group stage. El Bolso’s take: couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.
Finally, it’s time for our weekly “how bigoted are Italian soccer coaches?” feature. Last week Arrigo Sacchi bemoaned the proliferation of pigmentation in Italy’s youth teams; this week it’s Fabio Capello’s turn to sound like a moron. The former England boss took time out of his busy schedule to use homophobic slurs in praising Atlético’s physical playing style. He also defended his countryman’s unfortunate remarks, claiming that Sacchi was not being racist, he was just pointing out the lack of Italian players in the youth divisions. You know, because being black and Italian don’t mix. Guys, can we just put a cork in it? You’re giving the land of Silvio Berlusconi and Benito Mussolini a bad name.
And that’s all for this week, friends. No Pasión today (for obvious reasons), so check back in next week to see what’s going on in Uruguayan fútbol.
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- The Charrúa Report: Campeones! - February 14, 2017
- The Charrúa Report: 48 Is Enough - January 11, 2017
- The Charrúa Report: Nico and the Sounders - December 14, 2016
- The Charrúa Report: King of the Single Rounders - December 12, 2016
- The Charrúa Report: Senseless - December 6, 2016
- The Charrúa Report: The Bum’s Rush - November 28, 2016
- The Charrúa Report: A Bump in the Road - November 16, 2016
- The Charrúa Report: Is It Priceline Time? - November 12, 2016
- The Charrúa Report: Closer to Fine - October 13, 2016