Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Departure of an Idol: Ariel Ortega to Independiente de Rivadavia

It was bound to happen eventually: Diego Simeone could no longer stand Ariel Ortega's alcoholic problem and finally decided to seperate him from the team. After another incident this weekend, the ex-Estudiantes coach chose to have a long chat with Jose Maria Aguilar to decide where the idol's future would be, and it most definitely wasn't in Nuñez.

Nothing could stop the decision from occuring, not even Simeone's recent statements to the press that "Ortega was having a fantastic pre-season" and that he was "more fit than even the younger players". At first everyone speculated that "el Burrito" would be leaving to the United Arab Emirates, where he would received a $2,000,000 salary for playing for a local club for 10 months. Despite the juicy offer, the city's close-to-non-existant social life and the lack of interest to move there on behalf of his family made the #10 reject the proposal. Phone calls from several Argentine clubs then began to flood the offices in the Monumental regarding a possible loan, but all options were discarded since River did not want to benefit any direct rivals. One may call it fate, but this ultimately lead to the opening of one of the most surprising door: a move to Argentina's second division.

Both River and Ortega soon came to an agreement to let the "Jujeño" go to Independiente de Rivadavia for the rest of the year. Along with fighting to get the team from Mendoza to the first division, Ariel will also be looking to win the battle against alcohol. As part of his contract, he has agreed to cross the border to Chile every week to go seek professional help and try to get his addiction out of his life once and for all. River, meanwhile, will receive $500,000 for the 10-month deal.

It is truly sad that all this had to come to an end in this manner. Ortega is arguably the biggest club idol of the decade, and will always have a spot reserved in the heart of every true Riverplatense. He had been playing great lately, and was said to be having one of his best pre-seasons in years. I can assure that I was anxious to see him on the pitch, though we will have to see if that ever happens again: he'll be returning to the club in 2009 with over 35-years of age, and god knows if he'll still be in shape to earn himself a spot on the starting line-up. As far as the present goes, his empty spot has temporarily been taken over by recent incorporation Robert Flores, who will be looking to prove himself to the River crowd as Ariel's replacement.

Good luck "burrito"!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Fourth Incorporation: Santiago Salcedo

Simeone demanded his arrival, River accepted his request. After a hard fought battle to bring in Santiago Salcedo, "los Millonarios" were finally able to acquire the Paraguayan forward from Newell's Old Boys.

The 26-year old has shown his talent throughout his career, but became River's main target after his successful 2007-2008 season with the "Rosarinos". He continuously scored goals for Newell's and eventually ended as the squad's topscorer. An interesting fact is that he was able to score vs. all five of the "big teams" (River, Boca, Racing, Independiente, and San Lorenzo), most notably twice vs. our arch-rivals. Being the owner of a powerful and precise shot, as well as good heading characteristics, Salcedo seems as the perfect replacement for Sebastian Abreu.

Unfortunately, for now he still isn't "our" player. Yes, he has officially joined River, yet we do not possess his transfer rights: just this last week he was bought by two businessmen for $6,000,000. Those two businessmen then decided to place him in Nuñez, where he will sport "la banda" for the next 18 months in exchange for a $1,000,000 fee. Once the loan ends, an option to purchase Salcedo for $9,000,000 will be presented.

In ways this is both good and bad. It is good in the sense that we won't have to spend a huge sum of money on him and won't be risking too much: A few years ago we spent millions on Jairo Patiño and Gustavo Oberman, though neither of the two were able to adapt to the club and were later left as free agents. The negative to this, though, is that if we do want to purchase him in the future, he will end up costing 50% more ($3 million) than his current value.

Another thing I dislike about this whole transfer is that we are once again dealing with businessmen. Instead of directly negociating with the clubs, Aguilar has had a tendency to bring in business groups and deal with percentages. In the long run this has made River lose lots of money (we barely recieved anything for Gonzalo Higuain's move to Real Madrid, we technically no longer "own" Augusto Fernandez, etc.). In fact, Mateo Mussachio -a huge prospect from our lower divisions- is close to sealing a deal with football giants Real Madrid. The defender is one of our most promising players in the position since Martin Demichelis, and already has six official games in Primera despite only being 17-years old. Unfortunately, he would be leaving in exchange for some "debt" River has with these infamous businessmen, and the club would not be seeing a single penny in return for his services.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Quiroga and Galmarini: New "Millonarios"

After an unsuccessful attempt to bring back Roberto Ayala, River have finally achieved the incorporqtion of Facundo Quiroga. The 30-year old Argentine defender has been the main target to reinforce River's defense for the last three years, yet Aguilar had never been successful in completing his objective till now. Facundo's arrival finally became accessible recently, due to the expiration of his contract with Wolfsburg of Germany.

Quiroga will arrive to the club as a free agent full of years of experience. He officially debuted as a professional football player at Newell's Old Boys with just 19 years of age. Less than a year later, he was transfered to Sporting Lisbon of Portugal, where he began a European career that lasted ten years. He raked up over 240 games, combining his appearances in Sporting Lisbon, Napoli, and Wolfsburg. He was also featured on the Argentine National Team a total of sixteen times under the guidance of Marcelo Bielsa. He definitely seems as a good acquisition, who could help erase some of River's defensive problems.

Facundo Quiroga's transfer is also complimented by that of Martin Galmarini. Galmarini, a less known player, is a 26-year old who will be arriving from Tigre. He is less likely to rush in to a spot in the first team for now, though Simeone considers him as an interesting alternative for Ferrari (the ex-Tigre player can play either as a right-back or as a right midfielder).

Aguilar will now aim to fulfill Simeone's other request by bringing in Santiago Salcedo. The Paraguayan forward has a heavy price tag on him, but both River and Salcedo are very enthusiatic with the possibility of completing the operation. In fact, Caruso Lombardi (Newell's coach) no longer considers him a Newell's player and believes he is well on his way to Nunez.

As for other transfers, Simeone wants another central defender (Yepes recently expressed his desire to return). Alexis Sanchez could also be heading back to the Monumental: River are currently trying to find a business group to purchase part of his transfer and bring him back.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Ahumada Staying, Legend Returning?

The problems with Oscar Ahumada have finally been resolved: The defensive midfielder is close to reaching an agreement with River for a contract renewal worth $1,000,000 ($500,000 annually for 2 years). He will also be handed 30% of a future transfer (a total of 40% if one adds the 10% he already owns) and has been promised to be sold in the near future. Due to the agreement, Andres San Martin has been "freed" and will once again be joining Arsenal de Sarandi on loan.

Meanwhile, Jose Maria Aguilar keeps on moving in the transfer market and looking for incorporations. Surprisingly, River and Argentine National Team legend Roberto Ayala could be close to hitting a return. His name had been mentioned in the past, but "el Raton" usually discarded the opportunity. Now, his representative said the central defender is willing to return, and Real Zaragoza would be willing to let him go in exchange for 3 million euros. River doesn't find the price tag too excessive and may actually be making an offer for Ayala within the next few days.

In case the ex-National Team captain doesn't join the squad, Simeone has already decided to take a look at alternative options. A member of Diego's coaching staff went to see 23-year old Gerardo Alcoba on Sunday and gave "el Cholo" a heads up on the current Peñarol defender.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Oscar Ahumada: Uncertain Future

When it comes to controversies, Oscar Ahumada has been the first one on the list lately. Upon River's incredible elimination in the Copa Libertadores in May of this year, Ahumada made some shocking remarks to the press, suggesting that the loss came in the hands of the fans who were momentarily silent after San Lorenzo's first goal. He even went furthur than this and praised arch-rivals Boca Juniors fanbase.

Many River fans were upset with his comments, and most were hoping that he lost his spot in the first team. Despite that, Diego Simeone decided to stick with his usual tactics and kept Ahumada as one of the starting eleven players. Oscar slowly began regaining the respect of the fans, and his declarations were soon left behind.

It's been less than two months since this occured, but Ahumada is at it again. This time he didn't critisize anybody, but has made his future at the club uncertain: Jose Maria Aguilar had been negociating a new contract with the defensive midfielder for a while now (his old contract expired on June 30th), though no resolution has been made as of yet. There is said to be a clause on that contract which would make him a River player for an additional two years (till 2010), though Ahumada has decided to play the role of the blind man who knows nothing of this. Still, River have offered a new contract (worth $500,000 dollars annually), yet he wants more. Not only is he requesting to be one of the best paid players in the whole Argentine league ($800,000 a year), but he also wants to be paid a certain amount of money the club had owed him. Notice I said "had owed him", because an agreement had previously been reached to erase this debt in exchange for 10% of a future transfer fee. Many directives of the club believe that Oscar is making things complicated because he'd rather leave to another club as a free agent and recieve a juicy contract, as well as all of the transfer fees.

There will be another meeting held between Aguilar and Ahumada this afternoon. Our President is expected to offer him the contract he requests since Simeone stated he is an important part of the team. I personally wouldn't mind seeing him leave: I didn't take his comments about our fans in a good manner, he seems like a thief who puts money over the club who gave him everything, and I'd love to see Nicolas Domingo given more opportunities (the youngster is behind Ahumada and Ponzio and receives very little minutes). Updates will be posted as soon as the situation is resolved.

As for Robert Flores's arrival, more details on the transfer have been made public. Unlike Alexis Sanchez's loan (I had made an incorrect comparison to it in my previous post), River will actually have a chance to purchase part of the Uruguayan's transfer. Villarreal have given River the option to buy 30% of his rights in exchange for 1.75 million euros. The loan will be free unless "los Millonarios" lift a trophy at the end of the season: in the case of a local tournament -such as the Apertura and Clausura- the Spaniards will be owed 75,000 euros. Winning the Sudamericana and/or Libertadores, on the other hand, will raise the fee to 100,000 euros. A positive to the acquisition is that River may end up gaining free money: despite not currently holding any of his transfer rights, 15% of his next transfer will be owed to us if he is sold within the next 12 months. Not nearly as bad as I thought. Hopefully we get to see him stick around for more than a year, though.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Robert Flores: From River to River

River Plate have made their first incorporation by bringing in Robert Flores. The 22-year old midfielder may not be known outside of his native country, but in Uruguay he was praised by both fans and critics alike, gaining him a strong comparison to the legendary Enzo Francescoli. In his first season as a starter for River Plate of Uruguay (yes, his now ex-club holds the same name as us), he shined and was even chosen as the best player of the tournament by a group 100 of the country's best journalists.

So far, so good. But the worst part is that his case may end up being the same as Alexis Sanchez's. Flores was purchased by Villarreal a while back, and is still owned by the Spanish side. Since there is a good relationship between Villarreal and River following the recent transfer of 50% of 6 River players (in exchange for 9 million euros), the Uruguayan has arrived on loan for one year free of charge. The big question remains: what will happen after those 12 months? Aguilar plans on purchasing a small percentage of the player, though Robert will most likely be taking a flight to Europe instead.

In terms of other incorporations, River still have two main targets in mind: Mariano Andujar (goalkeeper; Estudiantes) and Santiago Salcedo (forward; Newell's). Both are becoming more accessible as time passes. In the goalkeeper's case, Mariano Barbosa's arrival to the team has changed Andujar's "untransferable" status to "negotiable". Although he will most likely end up in Europe, Simeone still has some hope that his favorite goalkeeper will join the club. Salcedo, on the other hand, seems impossible since Newell's President Eduardo Lopez has valued him at $10,000,000. The positive? The Paraguayan was said to be very excited with the possibility of joining "los Millonarios" and upon hearing Lopez's irrealistic price tag became very dissappointed. He even went as far as missing the first two days of pre-season training with the Rosarinos to let Lopez know that the standards should be lowered. River are analyzing a part exchange offer (money + Mauro Rosales), though if it isn't accepted they are already looking at alternative options.

As for loans, many will be arriving and many will be leaving:

- Rubens Sambueza, Diego Barrado, and Andres San Martin have returned from Pumas, Olimpo, and Arsenal de Sarandi respectively. All will be given a chance during this Pre-Season, though none are guaranteed to stay.
- Cristian Nasuti is highly likely to join Racing for the next twelve months, though Godoy Cruz, Newell's, and Banfield are also after him.
- Sebastian Sciorilli will be joining Colon with hopes of gaining some valuable first-team experience.
- Omar Merlo had joined River on loan in January. The central defender arrived from Colon as an interesting prospect, though Simeone never gave him a chance. He is heavily considering cutting his loan short in order to join Estudiantes.
- Rene Lima had everything straightened out to join PAOK of Greece on loan, though he will finally be joining Gimnasia (LP).

There is currently a bit of a problem with Oscar Ahumada and his contract. Make sure to check back for the next post, which will be regarding the problem.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Torneo Apertura 2008 Schedule Released

The schedule for the 2008-2009 season of the Argentine Primera Division has been released. River will begin the Torneo Apertura 2008 in Santa Fe, where they will face Colon. Many difficult matches will follow this one, but the one that everyone is curious about (the Superclasico) will be played on the 10th round (October 19th) in the Monumental. Meanwhile, what could be an extremely decisive match vs. Estudiantes will be played on the last round. Both River and Estudiantes have been some of the most competitive teams in Argentina recently, so it wouldn't be crazy to consider that the winner of this game could be the one lifting the trophy. The following is the complete list of match dates the "millonarios" will encounter this season:

1st Round - 08/10/2008 - Colon - River Plate
2nd Round - 08/17/2008 - River Plate - Rosario Central
3rd Round - 08/24/2008 - Banfield - River Plate
4th Round - 08/31/2008 - River Plate - San Lorenzo
5th Round - 09/14/2008 - Arsenal - River Plate
6th Round - 09/17/2008 - River Plate - Velez Sarsfield
7th Round - 09/21/2008 - San Martin (Tucuman) - River Plate
8th Round - 09/28/2008 - River Plate - Racing Club
9th Round - 10/05/2008 - Gimnasia (LP) - River Plate
10th Round - 10/19/2008 - River Plate - Boca Juniors
11th Round - 10/26/2008 - Gimnasia (JJ) - River Plate
12th Round - 10/29/2008 - River Plate - Newell's Old Boys
13th Round - 11/02/2008 - Lanus - River Plate
14th Round - 11/09/2008 - River Plate - Huracan
15th Round - 11/16/2008 - Independiente - River Plate
16th Round - 11/23/2008 - River Plate - Argentinos Juniors
17th Round - 11/30/2008 - Tigre - River Plate
18th Round - 12/07/2008 - River Plate - Godoy Cruz
19th Round - 12/14/2008 - Estudiantes (LP) - River Plate

As far as pre-season friendly matches go, I haven't heard anything official but we are rumored to face both Godoy Cruz and San Martin de Tucuman (the two teams who have been promoted to the first division this season) towards the end of July. Updates will be posted ASAP.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Transfer Market: June 29th Update

With the transfer market already officially open, River are after quite a few players. Ex-players Roberto Ayala, Pablo Aimar, and Santiago Solari have already backed off, so here's a list with the current candidates to reinforce the squad:

Goalkeepers: Nicolas Navarro (Napoli), Mariano Barbosa (Free Agent; ex-Banfield and Villarreal), Mariano Andujar (Estudiantes; very complicated).
Defenders: Nicolas Spolli (Newell's), Sebastian Dominguez (America; coached by Simeone in Estudiantes), Facundo Quiroga (Wolfsburg), Juan Pablo Sorin (Hamburg; would be a target if Villagra leaves).
Midfielders: Ignacio Piatti (Gimnasia LP; a business group wants to buy him and loan him to us), Diego Barrado (owned by River and returning from a loan with Olimpo; Simeone is said to be interested in his services).
Forwards: Santiago Salcedo (Newell's).

Mario Yepes's name is also floating around a bit, and the Colombian himself even expressed his interest in returning. Either way, I don't see him arriving anytime soon..

As for players out:

Goalkeepers: Juan Pablo Carrizo (to Lazio), Juan Marcelo Ojeda (unknown destination; highly likely to be transferred if another goalkeeper arrives).
Defenders: Cristian Nasuti (unknown destination - wanted by a few Mexican clubs and Godoy Cruz; fed up with being a "back-up" player), Danilo Gerlo (wanted by Asteras Trípoli of Greece).
Midfielders: Oscar Ahumada (hasn't renewed his soon-to-be-expired-contract yet), Rene Lima (to PAOK FC of Greece on loan), Diego Barrado (if Simeone decides to not use him, Godoy Cruz and a few other "small" clubs are interested in acquiring the midfielder on loan), Nicolas Domingo (wanted by Atlas of Mexico), Rubens Sambueza (his loan with Pumas will finish, but his future remains in the Mexican league with a different club next season).
Forwards: Sebastian Abreu (to Beitar Jerusalem), Alexis Sanchez (returning to Udinese from his loan with River).

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Banfield: 2 - River Plate: 3 - Torneo Clausura 2008

On Sunday, River flipped a 0-2 partial score vs. Banfield to eventually win 3-2. The following video reviews the match:

Friday, June 20, 2008

Video: River Plate's Best Goals (Part II)

I have created a second segment to add to my video collection of River Plate's best goals:

The first part can be seen here. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ernesto Farias to Return to River?

Many false rumours are being thrown around in the transfer market nowadays, but with the highly likely departures of Radamel Falcao Garcia and Sebastian Abreu, Aguilar is said to be seriously considering reinforcing the squad with a new striker.

To the surprise of many, one of the "stronger" names will actually be one that is well known to River fans already. Ernesto Farias (pictured right), who sported "la banda" for three years, is supposedly one of the targets. "El Tecla" is currently playing alongside ex-River player Lucho Gonzalez in Porto of Portugal and is being followed by a few Argentine clubs (Estudiantes being the other one). He had an overall good scoring record while at River, yet he never managed to get into the hearts of the fans and was often critisized. Is he the right player to go after, or should we be looking for new faces?

Another player that Jose Maria Aguilar is looking at is Santiago Salcedo of Newell's Old Boys (pictured left). Ever since he joined the Rosarinos two years ago, he's been getting the thumbs up from both the press and fans alike, and could end up being a great acquisition for "los millonarios". The Paraguayan possess a very powerful and accurate shot, and looks like a great replacement for Falcao. Unfortunately, though, I do not see this happening due to economic reasons: Newell's tend to write pretty heavy price tags (Fernando Belluschi and Oscar Cardozo being two recent examples), and will probably not let Salcedo go so easily. River, meanwhile, probably won't be looking to spend too much after finishing in failure last time they tried this.

Regarding other positions, Diego Simeone is also looking to bring a replacement for Juan Pablo Carrizo, and Mariano Barbosa of Villarreal looks like one of the candidates. He was a great goalkeeper at Banfield, and I have the best of images of Mariano. I know my opinion won't weigh too much, but I approve him.

More updates to be posted soon.

Video: Clausura 2008 Re-Cap

The following video sums up River Plate's Torneo Clausura 2008 title:


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

River Plate: 2 - Olimpo: 1 - Torneo Clausura 2008

River Plate defeated Olimpo by 2-1 for the eighteenth round of the Torneo Clausura 2008. Due to a combination of both this and Estudiantes' goal-less draw with Colon, "los Millonarios" were able to lift their 33rd Argentine League trophy.

River played an overall good game. Diego Simeone's team was able to go up 1-0 in the first half, after Diego Buonanotte successfully scored a previously-prepared set-piece. Everything was going well, though the team were not able to conquer several other clear opportunities. This almost came back to haunt us later on in the game, when Josemir Lujambio evened up the match for the away team. The partial score was not justified, though as we all know soccer isn't always fair. Luckily enough, Buonanotte put the ball through the net for the second time in the game and was able to lead River to their first trophy in the last 4 years.

Although it may seem like it, the "dwarf" wasn't the only key player. Many players played well, but a name that comes to mind instantly is that of Ariel Ortega. "El Burrito" was critisized by a very small group of fans (including some readers on this blog), yet his magic has once again proven why he is such a huge idol to the club's fanbase. Since his official return to the starting team three weeks ago, he has been vital to the team's victorious season: vs. Huracan he assisted Buonanotte in River's only goal, vs. Colon he assisted Cristian Villagra in a fantastic manner in our first goal (final score 2-1), and on Sunday vs. Olimpo he gave a great pass to Buonanotte to complete River's 2-1 win. There is no way to actually prove that we wouldn't have won any of those games without him, but if one substracts his assists from the final scores, we would have tied all three matches and would actually be watching Estudiantes lift the trophy instead.

Unfortunately, the transfer market is already starting to open up, meaning that several key members of this squad will not be with us next season. Juan Pablo Carrizo will finally be joining Lazio, Augusto Fernandez is being followed by Lazio and Atletico Madrid, Matias Abelairas is a name that Carrizo's future club has in mind, Radamel Falcao Garcia is one of the most wanted players currently with River, Almeria of Spain are interested in signing Leonardo Ponzio, and Mauro Rosales is highly likely to leave. As for possible reinforcements, ex-River players Roberto Ayala and Santiago Solari sound with chances of returning.

Full Review of the Match:

Congratulations River Plate, Champions of the Torneo Clausura 2008!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

River Campeon!

Gracias Ortega por ser el idolo de siempre!
Gracias Enano por tu "grandeza"!
Gracias Carrizo por esas atajadas inolvidables!
Gracias Falcao por todos esos goles!
Gracias Cholo por ir al frente a pesar de las quejas!
Gracias Bosteros por burlarse de River todo el ano y despues quedarse sin el pan y sin la torta! Ya todos saben que el que rie ultimo rie mejor!! Shhhhh...
Gracias Dios por poner esa cosa inexplicable y eterna en mi corazon. Esa cosa que algunos llaman "River Plate", y yo llamo mi vida!


Thursday, June 5, 2008

Updates: June 5, 2008

I apologize for the lack of updates on the blog recently, but due to school, work, and a 3-day trip down to San Diego, it's been hard to keep up with the site lately. Here are the latest updates:

- Thanks to two victories (1-0 over Huracan and 2-1 over Colon) in the last two rounds of the Clausura, River are now above the other 19 Argentine teams participating in this year's Primera Division. Estudiantes follow in second place, with just two points less the "los Millonarios". With just two games remaining, River could be lifting a trophy for the first time in 4 years on Sunday.

- Boca lost 3-1 to Fluminense yesterday and have therefore been eliminated from the Copa Libertadores 2008. After so much "smack talk" given by the Xeneizes since our elimination to San Lorenzo, it looks like they will be the ones without a trophy this season.

- I was present yesterday in Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego to witness Argentina defeat Mexico (once again). The final score was 4-1, and the party was seen in the stands the whole game:

Vamos Argentina y Aguante River Plate!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Transfer Market: May 21st Update

As always, news regarding possible transfers related to the club has been surfacing the streets of Nunez. In a single post, here are all the updates of the 2008 off-season transfer market:

Players Out

Matias Abelairas: "Pitu" may well be on his way to Europe, after rumours state that Lazio are preparing a 5 million euro offer for the midfielder. If he doesn't leave with Carrizo to the Italian side in June, he still has chances of wearing a different jersey.

Cristian Villagra: Just when the left back began to play regularly well for River, it seems like he will move over to a team in the "Old Continent". Villarreal (Spain), Catania (Italy), and Olympiakos (Greece) would be just some of the many options for "Kity".

Alexis Sanchez: It is nothing new that the talented youngster has extremely small chances of remaining at the club after the Clausura. So what's the point of this note? Well, Independiente have expressed their interest in the Chilean and actually have a good chance of contracting him on loan after he leaves River. I could see it already: we face "el Rojo" in the Copa Sudamericana and are eliminated to the hands of Sanchez (ala D'Alessandro).

Radamel Falcao Garcia: The forward was just one step away from migrating to a different club in January, but he decided that he wanted to stay at least one more season. Now, the Colombian will probably not have a choice, and the offers will come flying in. Who will be his replacement?

Eduardo Tuzzio, Danilo Gerlo, Cristian Nasuti, Leonardo Ponzio, and Mauro Rosales: Their time in River seems to be coming close to an end. The only way these players are expected to stay is if a tempting offer does not arrive in the halls of the Monumental.

Players In

Pablo Aimar and Roberto Ayala: The two historic River players are currently playing for Real Zaragoza, who recently descended to the second division of the Spanish league. This is just one of the reasons why Jose Maria Aguilar has decided to go after the duo. Still, it seems impossible that they'll join our squad for next season due to economic reasons. Also, doesn't the same article mentioning their possible arrival appear on Ole/Clarin/La Nacion every six months?

Andres D'Alessandro: If the Aimar operation isn't successful, it is said that "los millonarios" will go after "el Cabezon". Just like the Aimar and Ayala, this transfer would be very complicated to achieve. The question is, if River are after him now, why didn't they put the money to buy him when they had a chance in January?

Ariel Ibagaza and Sebastian Leto: River will go after the two midfielders who are currently playing in Europe. It's pretty much the same story as always. I can see Aguilar already: "We couldn't bring you Aimar or D'Alessandro, but we did bring Ibagaza and Leto!".

Hilario Navarro: River would be looking for a replacement for Carrizo, and Racing's goalkeeper could be one of the main targets. The negative? His knee injury does not impress the dirigentes.

Gustavo Cabral: Diego Simeone has been pleased with the ex-Racing defender's performance this season, and has requested that the management transform his loan into a permament incorporation for River.

Dario Conca: The attacking midfielder played a key role for Fluminense today, who succesfully eliminated candidates Sao Paulo from the 2008 Copa Libertadores. He is on loan from River, and unless somebody purchases him, he should be returning in June. With so much talk of bringing in a new playmaker (Ibagaza, Aimar, D'Alessandro, etc.), could the solution to our problem be in our own hands?

Surprisingly enough, I kind of like this. Although we could be losing many great players (Falcao, Augusto Fernandez, Ponzio, Alexis Sanchez, Abelairas, etc.), we've been having a similar squad for the last few years now and things haven't too gone well. I believe that this could be the right time to clean out the squad and refresh the starting eleven with youngsters/new players.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Independiente: 0 - River Plate: 0 - Torneo Clausura 2008

River Plate tied 0-0 with Independiente on Sunday, finishing the match with a score that pretty much sums up the 90 minutes played between the two. The lack of clear chances created by the team, as well as their inability to play well against the "big" teams, is starting to raise a concern within the general fanbase. With only four games left and two points away from Estudiantes, will River be able to lift the trophy in a month?

Although not too much action was seen on the pitch vs. the "Red Devils", this has been a very (unnecessarily) active week for "los Millonarios":

- Defensive midfielder Oscar Ahumada tried to take some of the weight off his shoulders and suggested that the quietness by the River fans after San Lorenzo's first goal (second leg of the Copa Libertadores match up) may have been the reason why our rivals were able to find the second goal just minutes later. To make things worse, he then mentioned Boca Juniors' fans and how he witnessed them chanting strongly despite being down 2-0 to River a few years ago. First off, he couldn't have possibly said anything worse to a River fan (how can he compare us to a group of fans that places black flags and abandons the stadium when the team is doing bad?). Second, the momentary quietness was due to shock and disbelief of what was actually occuring. Throughout the rest of the game the fans made noise and were amazing - it's proven by the following video:

As a consequence of his incredibly surprising and thoughtless words, not only did Oscar receive an economic fine from the club, but he was also the main target of 7,000 River fans on Sunday who insulted and had flags put up against him. He's been playing great lately, but I don't know if I want to see him with River next season after his statement.

- As if the Copa Libertadores elimination and Ahumada's statements weren't enough, another conflict came to light just a few days later. Argentine newspaper Ole published an article mentioning that members of the current River squad were discontent with idol Ariel Ortega, and supposedly let Diego Simeone know that they weren't happy sharing the locker-room with "el Burrito". Rumors then started circulating that Ortega would no longer be with River next season, with Barcelona of Ecuador and a few Mexican clubs expressing interest in the #10. Upon hearing the rumours, River fans sang the following song at our last game:

In a quick summary, the songs pretty much say that Ortega will not leave River and that he must play (he's been a substitute for quite a while now). Ariel returned the praise to River fans, saying he loves them and that he wants to play the remainder of his career with "la banda". Still, a few words don't guarantee anything. One question arises: is this all a press invention to make River's situation worse and sell newspaper, or is Ortega's spot really at risk?

- Lazio of Italy are said to be preparing a 5 million euro offer for midfielder Matias Abelairas. It is amazing to believe that the same player we were getting ready to offload to a small Argentine club in January is now wanted by a historically strong team and for a very interesting sum of money. If he were to leave to the Rome-based side, he would be joining the Italians along with Juan Pablo Carrizo in June.

Our next Clausura game will be on Saturday vs. Huracan in the Monumental. A loss could nearly void River's chances of winning the tournament: if Estudiantes win, we would be 5 points away from Simeone's ex-team, with barely 3 games left in play. Therefore, our aim should be to take all 9 points - not just for the tournament, but also to assure ourselves a spot in the 2009 Copa Libertadores.

Monday, May 12, 2008

River Plate: 4 - Gimnasia (LP): 2 - Torneo Clausura 2008

River Plate returned to victory after two weeks by defeating Gimnasia (LP) by 4-2 for the the 14th Round of the Torneo Clausura 2008.

To make things worse after the mid-week elimination in the hands of San Lorenzo, "los Millonarios" began losing the match. Things could have gotten even worse, though the posts were on our side and prevented 3 clear opportunities from being transformed into goals. River finally seemed to get on track with a fierce shot by Matias Abelairas the tied the match, though not much longer a defensive disconcentration let Gimnasia find the 2-1 lead before heading to the locker rooms for half time. The first 45 minutes ended and the Monumental stadium was pure havoc. The fans, who were already deeply hurt from the match vs. San Lorenzo, became frustrated from River's poor performance vs. a very mediocre team. The away side were completely controlling the match, River's midfield didn't seem as if they were present, and the defense was more fragil than glass. Something had to be done during half time if the team aspired to fight for the title this season.

Diego Simeone must have had an inspirational speech during the 15-minute break, because the team entered the field with a new attitude and a different style of play. This quickly led River to put the match back on level terms (2-2 by Buonanotte) and then flip the score (Matias Abelairas and Ariel Ortega). The squad ultimately ended up converting strong mumbles and insults from the crowd into applauses and cheer. Now, what was this change of performance due to? Oscar Ahumada entered the field during half time to replace Leonardo Ponzio and brought the missing defensive strength to the pitch. Ariel Ortega was also subbed-in, and added pace (what was missing on Thursday vs. CASLA) and created plays. He made several clear chances for the team, including to one-on-one's. Diego Buonanotte and Alexis Sanchez -two players who played from the start- heavily improved for the last 45 minutes, after both having a very poor first half.

The goals:

Thanks to San Lorenzo and Boca Juniors's losses, River now find themselves more comfortable in the standings. With five games remaining, the top positions in the rankings look as follows:

1) River Plate - 30 Pts.
2) Estudiantes - 30 Pts.
3) San Lorenzo - 27 Pts.
4) Velez Sarsfield - 27 Pts.
5) Independiente - 26 Pts.
6) Boca Juniors - 26 Pts.

An exciting last portion of the tournament awaits us. Independiente, who have slowly crept up behind River and Estudiantes, are on a five match winning streak and must face us next Sunday. The other top teams will also be experiencing "clasicos" next weekend, with Boca receiving Racing, Estudiantes facing arch-rivals Gimnasia (LP), and San Lorenzo playing their derby vs. Huracan.

Friday, May 9, 2008

River Plate: 2 - San Lorenzo: 2 - Copa Libertadores 2008

After an initial 2-1 loss in the first game of the two-legged Copa Libertadores Round of Sixteen match match vs. San Lorenzo, "los Millonarios" needed to find a victory to qualify to the next round. Unfortunately, the final result was 2-2, leaving River out of the cup.

River actually played an overall good match. They dominated 80 of the game's 90 minutes, and played some of the best offensive football we've seen this season. We were unlucky not to put the ball past the net more than two times. Despite our 2-0 lead (goals scored by Matias Abelairas and Sebastian Abreu) with just 20 minutes remaining, San Lorenzo were able to tie the match with two men less on the pitch thanks to Gonzalo Bergessio, who scored two goals in just three minutes.

Now who is responsible for this? Just about everyone. Let's review:

- The Players: How could they let a comfortable lead slip, especially while playing 11 on 9? Not only that, but the defense showed poor marking on both goals (see video above).
- Jose Maria Aguilar: One of the first decisions when River's current President assumed was to not renew Ramon Diaz's contract and let him go. The same Ramon who won a record-breaking titles with River, has flipped San Lorenzo horrendous past (they finished as a midtable team and lost 7-1 to Boca in the season previous to his arrival) into a glory filled present. Aguilar was also presented with opportunity to bring back club idol Andres D'Alessandro, but chose to rather spend money on the likes of Cabral, Archubi, and Abreu. Guess who made the assist in San Lorenzo's second goal? You guessed it.
- The Referrees: Sergio Pezzotta had a terrible night, disallowing a valid goal by Sebastian Abreu, not calling a clear penalty in favor of River, and not expelling Andres Silvera (the forward later played a key role in San Lorenzo's first goal). In the first leg of the series, Hector Baldassi alaso showed poor performance: the FIFA International awarded the "Cuervos" a controversial penalty which sealed their 2-1 win. He should have also shown Gonzalo Bergessio a red card.. yes, the same player who ended up scoring the two goals in the second match
- Diego Simeone: Our coach committed some errors during the match. "El Cholo" took out Augusto Fernandez -who was playing a great match offensively, and was also one of the players who recuperated the ball most- in the second half and brought in Mauro Rosales. He did this with the score already 2-0 in our favor. Of course, upon doing this the defense became fragile and San Lorenzo found their way to the draw. Was it necessary to take out one of the best players on the field and bring another one who has no clue when it comes to defending? Besides, if what he was looking for was offensive power, he should have put in Ariel Ortega instead. Surprisingly enough, "el Burrito" ended up watching the whole match from the bench and didn't even play a minute. This was a game for Ortega, and if there's any player on the squad that knows how to play these games it's him.

The past is not editable, but the future can be changed. As seen above, pretty much everyone committed mistakes on the night where failure was the last option. Hopefully they learn from their errors, because failures are now becoming way too common in the Monumental.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

River Plate Eliminated From Copa Libertadores

River Plate tied 2-2 vs. San Lorenzo tonight and have been eliminated from the Copa Libertadores 2008. Before anything, I must clarify that it's incredible that the players let the match go, being up 2-0 with 2 players more than San Lorenzo. I also blame this partially on our President Jose Maria Aguilar: he let Ramon Diaz go, and also didn't grab D'Alessandro when he had a chance. This came back to leave us out of the most important tournament in existance for River. Despite that, we should also remember the poor reffing. Let's do a quick re-cap:

1st leg (2-1 in favor of San Lorenzo):
- Controversial penalty in favor of the home side which gave them the victory.

2nd leg (2-2):
- Goal by Abreu that was disallowed. Replays show that he was not offsides.
- Clear penalty for River when the match was up 1-0, yet the ref fails to call it.
- Silvera should have been expelled for hitting Tuzzio. Not long after, the same player plays the key role in San Lorenzo's first goal of the night.

As mentioned previously, I cannot believe our players let this game slip. It is truly an embarrassment to be eliminated when up 2-0 and the rivals being down by 2 men. But, honestly, there were too many clear ref errors in favor of San Lorenzo. Had they not existed, River probably would have qualified with ease (we would have had 2 goals extra, and San Lorenzo 2 less). It is inevitable to ignore this.. who knows, maybe our present would have been different.

A more detailed review on the match is expected to be posted later.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

River - San Lorenzo: The Preview

River Plate will be looking to secure their permanency in the Copa Libertadores 2008 tomorrow. In order to remain in the competition, "los millonarios" must finish the 90+ minutes of the match vs. San Lorenzo with a victory.

Diego Simeone has decided to make few changes as compared to last week's game, and will only bring in Diego Buonanotte for Rodrigo Archubi. The rest of the team will remain the same, meaning that both Ariel Ortega and Alexis Sanchez will once again be substitutes. Therefore, the starting eleven are expected to be:

Juan Pablo Carrizo;
Paulo Ferrari-Gustavo Cabral-Eduardo Tuzzio-Cristian Villagra;
Augusto Fernandez-Oscar Ahumada-M. Abelairas-Diego Buonanotte;
Radamel Falcao Garcia-Sebastian Abreu;

San Lorenzo will nearly repeat their formation and line-up. As quoted from last week's preview "Their most dangerous player -without a doubt- is Andres D'Alessandro. The ex-River player is full of jukes, precise shots and accurate passes. Add that to the fact that he'll be looking to prove himself to his current team's fans (he was accused of faking an injury in the game against us earlier on this season), which makes him even a bigger threat. Forwards Andres Silvera and Gonzalo Bergessio should also be looked after, with the first being a historic goalscorer, and the second being on a good scoring streak as of late."

River literally has to win. A draw or a loss will expell the team from the competition, due to the fact that we lost the first match of the two-leg series by 2-1. In fact, certain victories would even leave us out (3-2, 4-3, 5-4, etc.; because of the "away goal" rule). So how can we qualify? Well, the only way we will automatically get through with a "minimal difference" result is by winning 1-0. A 2-1, meanwhile, would take the match to extra time and then -if necessary- penalties. Any result with a difference of 2 goals or more in favor of River, on the other hand, would grant us access to one of the eight Quarterfinal match-ups.

Luckily, this time Fox Sports en Espanol will be airing the match live at 4:30 PM Pacific / 7:30 PM Eastern Time.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Boca Juniors: 1 - River Plate: 0 - Torneo Clausura 2008

River Plate lost to Boca Juniors by 1-0 in the 13th Round of the Torneo Clausura 2008. Unfortunately, the team lost more than just a Superclasico: a victory would have left River with 3 points more than Estudiantes (who lost 2-1 vs. Argentinos Jrs.) and 7 more than Boca. Since the Xeneizes won, "los millonarios" are now sharing the first place spot with Estudiantes and San Lorenzo, with Boca just one point away from the trio.

River did not show any clear signs of good football. In fact, the team hardly had any clear chances, with Abreu's header towards the end of the match being the only one coming to mind. The only people who put on a show were River's fans, who received the team with over 3,000 red-and-white balloons in the stands:

Don't get me wrong, Boca weren't all that magnificent either, but they had a few chances and were able to clinch the three points thanks to this header by Sebastian Battaglia that finished inside the net:

River's poor performance left every Riverplatense a bit worried and upset, though -surprisingly- it didn't affect me too much. I think it's a bit because we are still on top in the rankings (..and Boca is still behind us), but mainly because of the excitement of awaiting the Copa Libertadores match vs. San Lorenzo. Unlike yesterday's game, if we lose or tie on Thursday (and in certain cases even if we win), we will be eliminated from this year's edition of the tournament. We've lost two extremely important games this last week, but the most important one of the three still remains. So here's hoping the best for "la banda". Vamos River!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Boca - River: The (Mini) Preview

Starting Eleven:
Juan Pablo Carrizo;
Danilo Gerlo-Nicolas Sanchez-Eduardo Tuzzio-Cristian Villagra;
Leonardo Ponzio-Matias Abelairas;
Alexis Sanchez-Ariel Ortega-Diego Buonanotte;
Radamel Falcao Garcia
Boca Key Players: Juan Roman Riquelme (Midfielder) and Rodrigo Palacio (Forward).
Boca Surprise Player: Jesus Datolo (Midfielder)
Television Broadcast: Live on Fox Sports en Espanol and Fox Soccer Channel at 11:00 AM Pacific / 1:00 PM Eastern Time.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

San Lorenzo: 2 - River Plate: 1 - Copa Libertadores 2008

River Plate lost 2-1 to San Lorenzo in a typical Copa Libertadores match, which was full of excitement, tension, fights, and controversial moments - all at once.

The home side began winning 1-0 thanks to Andres Silvera. Luckily, Radamel Falcao Garcia was able to find the net a few minutes later, allowing "los Millonarios" to tie the match for the moment. Despite eventually losing, this goal may end up being important since it was an away goal (if we win 1-0 in the Monumental, we would qualify automatically to the next round).

Everything went well in the first half. River were controlling San Lorenzo's attack, yet they still went out looking to score. Unfortunately, the proposition changed a bit in the second half, when Simeone opted to play a counter-attack style of football and allowed Ramon Diaz's team to reach Carrizo's goal more often. Although we suffered at times, it seemed as if "el Cholo"'s plans were going well towards the end of the match. We were leaving with a 1-1 tie, which would force San Lorenzo to look for a win in next week's game. But the game was not yet over: in the 87th minute, referree Hector Baldassi called a controversial penalty that Adrian Gonzalez exchanged for CASLA's victory. What happened exactly in the play? The ball bounced of Alexis Sanchez hand, who in my opinion had no intention to hit it. To top it off, he was pushed by a San Lorenzo player, causing his hand to clash with the ball. Not much time was left after this for "los millonarios" to find the draw, and the game ultimately ended 2-1.

The Player Review -
Juan Pablo Carrizo: The goalkeeper did not have fault in either one of the two goals, and once again made some fantastic saves. Placente had a potential shot in the first half that could have made things a lot worse for River, yet JP stopped the shot and kept River alive.
Paulo Ferrari: The best player on the field. When he attacked he was dangerous (made the assist in Falcao's goal), and when he defended he was lethal. No one could get past him, and he amazingly won several balls. In the past, he wasn't exactly known for his defending abilities, but I've been noticing a huge improvement in this aspect of Ferrari's style of play. He had a fantastic game, as simple as that.
Gustavo Cabral: Poor performance. He failed to do his job correctly. Nicolas Sanchez seems to be the better option for his position at the moment.
Eduardo Tuzzio: Tuzzio was solid, despite being verbally abused by Gonzalo Bergessio (the foward brought up the infamous conflicts Tuzzio had with ex-River defender Horacio Ameli). At times, he also fought with Andres Silvera.
Cristian Villagra: The best defender behind Ferrari. He completed his tasks and efficiently stopped several attacks.
Augusto Fernandez: The right-winger started off playing a great game, though his performance dropped as time passed. Either way, he had an overall good game, being a key player in the offensive part of the team, yet also knowing when to return to help in the defensive duties.
Oscar Ahumada: The defensive midfielder was not horrible, but did not impress me either. It wasn't his best game, though he didn't commit errors either.
Matias Abelairas: A key player in the circulation of the ball, especially in the first half.
Rodrigo Archubi: The ex-Lanus player was arguably the worst player on the field. Not in the sense that he committed nonstop errors, but he failed to impress in several ways. The only positive he had was a powerful shot in the first few minutes of the game, but other than that he was very inactive.
Radamel Falcao Garcia: The Colombian had a good game and scored River's only goal with another great header. He fought for every ball with will and passion.
Sebastian Abreu: The Uruguayan incredibly missed a one-on-one opportunity in the 4th minutes of the first half. If that would have gone in, who knows what the final result would have been. Besides that, he had a good game, being helpful in the attack and always returning to defend in set pieces. He left in the second half: would the second goal have existed if he were still on the field?
The Substitutes -
Diego Buonanotte: The "dwarf" entered in the second half and almost scored what would have been a partial 2-1 lead for us.
Alexis Sanchez: The Chilean attempted to leave his mark, but the only way he did so was by giving San Lorenzo a penalty towards the end of the match. Not at all what we expected from the ex-Colo Colo player.
Ariel Ortega: Did not play enough to comment on.

The second leg of this Round of Sixteen match-up will be played next Thursday. We must finish the game with a win if we plan on advancing, though in some cases even a victory won't be enough to get through. Either way, we must first think of the Superclasico vs. Boca on Sunday.

The Goals:

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

San Lorenzo - River: The Preview

River Plate will be facing San Lorenzo de Almagro tomorrow in an extremely important clash for the Round of Sixteen of the Copa Libertadores 2008. "Los Millonarios" should be looking for anything but a loss tomorrow, with the following eleven players aiming for that goal:

Juan Pablo Carrizo;
Paulo Ferrari-Nicolas Sanchez-Eduardo Tuzzio-Cristian Villagra;
Augusto Fernandez-Oscar Ahumada-Matias Abelairas-Rodrigo Archubi;
Radamel Falcao Garcia-Sebastian Abreu

This formation indicates that River will be returning to a classical 4-4-2 formation, something we hadn't seen in a long time. The most surprising part, though, is that Ariel Ortega, Diego Buonanotte, Alexis Sanchez, and Mauro Rosales are all missing from the starting line-up. Many would have been considered it a better choice to field this alternative team last weekend vs. Argentinos Juniors, and put the starters tomorrow. Instead, Diego Simeone has opted to do pretty much the opposite. Despite that, his tactics may seem logical in certain point of views: not only will many players get some rest before the Superclasico, but if the team manages to hold back San Lorenzo and atleast tie, we will have the opportunity to define the game at home. It is obvious that by taking out the more offensive players (mentioned above) and inserting more defensive players (Ahumada, Abelairas, and Archubi), "el Cholo" will be looking to control the home side's offensive flare and leave Carrizo's goal as safe as possible.

Meanwhile, San Lorenzo have been keeping their best for this game. Many starters rested on Sunday vs. Boca (Ramon Diaz's team won 1-0), though they would be present vs. River. The most dangerous player -without a doubt- is Andres D'Alessandro. The ex-River player is full of jukes, precise shots and accurate passes. Add that to the fact that he'll be looking to prove himself to his current team's fans (he was accused of faking an injury in the game against us earlier on this season), making him a huge threat. Forwards Andres Silvera and Gonzalo Bergessio should also be looked after, with the first being a historic goalscorer, and the second being on a good scoring streak as of late.

Unfortunately, Fox Sports en Espanol have decided to broadcast the America (MEX) - Flamengo (BRA) match live instead of ours. This means that to catch the match, one will have to wait till 9:00 PM Pacific / 12:00 AM Eastern Time to watch it on a Tape Delay on the same channel.

Monday, April 28, 2008

River Plate: 4 - Argentinos Jrs.: 2 - Torneo Clausura 2008

River Plate defeated Argentinos Juniors by 4-2 to remain on top of the Clausura rankings alongside Estudiantes. The team was led by an extremely inspired Diego Buonanotte, who scored the first two goals. The other two were scored by Sebastian Abreu and Radamel Falcao Garcia.

The team played well, with Juan Pablo Carrizo once again making some vital saves. Ariel Ortega, who entered the field for the second half, had an overall good performance and boosted the team's collective play. Fortunately, none of the five players with 4 yellow cards (Ferrari, Cabral, Villagra, Abelairas, and Falcao) received a card, and will therefore be present on Sunday's game vs. Boca Juniors.

As a side note, Boca lost this weekend to San Lorenzo, meaning that they are now four points away from the league leaders (River and Estudiantes). The best part about this is that even if we lose the Superclasico on Sunday, they will not be able to catch up to us. What would be even better would be to defeat them: if we are victorious, the "Bosteros" would be left 7 points away, leaving them with smaller chances of lifting the trophy in June.

The goals:

As for transfer updates, they never seem to be missing in the Monumental. Matias Abelairas, for example, was a secondary player at the beginning of the year and was originally not even called up by Diego Simeone for pre-season training with the team. He eventually won himself a spot (due to lack of players in his position) in a few Torneo de Verano games, and since then has been an essential part of the team. Of course the good performances have not only gained us points, but also European clubs that are interested in acquiring the leftie. Schalke 04 of Germany have made their intentions public, though he may end up elsewhere. Radamel Falcao Garcia is also wanted, though his case is different: foreign clubs are after the Colombian every offseason, though River fail to receive any tempting offers. This year may be different though, and Juventus are said to be preparing a $15,000,000 offer.

For now, we must put all these thoughts away and focus on our current plans. An exciting yet tough schedule awaits us, with two fatal matches vs. San Lorenzo for the Copa Libertadores and the Superclasico in between... all to be played in just 8 days. Vamos River!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

River - Argentinos: The Preview

River will be playing Argentinos Juniors tomorrow, in what will be the beginning of the most difficult and exciting weeks of the year thus far: after tomorrow's game, we will be facing San Lorenzo for the Copa Libertadores on Wednesday, and then Boca Juniors for the Torneo Clausura.

Despite risking the prescense of several players in the Superclasico (Cabral, Villagra, Abelairas, and Falcao all have 4 yellow cards), Simeone has decided to field the following eleven players:

Juan Pablo Carrizo;
Danilo Gerlo-Gustavo Cabral-Nicolas Sanchez-Cristian Villagra;
Leonardo Ponzio-Matías Abelairas;
Mauro Rosales-Alexis Sanchez-Diego Buonanotte;
Radamel Falcao Garcia

Meanwhile, other key players like Paulo Ferrari (also has 4 yellows), Ariel Ortega, and Sebastian Abreu will all be on the bench waiting patiently for their chance. Others such as Eduardo Tuzzio, Oscar Ahumada, and Augusto Fernandez will be missing out due to being suspended.

Argentinos Juniors will intend to prove that they are always a tough side to get past. In certain ways, their 14 points this season may make it seems as if they are underperforming a bit, but they've always given River a tough time: they have won the last two games (2-1 and 4-1, respectively), while "los Millonarios" have only finished victorious once against them since 2005 (six games have been played since then). Our future Copa Libertadores-rivals San Lorenzo even fell in the hands of "el Bicho" last weekend. 'Nuff said.

What's the reason behind their success? The team is full of less-known yet potential players. Alejandro Delorte is a giant who is unstoppable with his headers, while youngster Gabriel Hauche is a very quick foward who is the club's leading goalscorer this season. Meanwhile, others such as Alvaro Pereira should have an eye kept on, for giving them time and space can result in a deadly combination.

The match will be shown live on TyC Sports USA at 10:00 AM Pacific / 1:00 PM Eastern Time.

One may be asking why Alexis Sanchez is the main character in today's preview picture. Unfortunately, the Chilean wonderkid is commencing to attract the interest of several European powerhouses, with Manchester United being the latest club to inquire about him. The British side offered 11 million euros to have Alexis play next to C. Ronaldo, Tevez, and Rooney next season, though the offer was rejected. Still, don't be surprised if Sanchez does not wear "la banda" next season: Sir Ferguson's side are prepared to make a new offer, while Udinese (his owners) are expecting to count on him starting June.

But Sanchez may not be the only player leaving at the end of the season. Augusto Fernandez (pictured behind the Chilean) is one of the main targets for several European clubs during every off-season, and this time it seems as if River won't be able to retain him. He could end up with Fernando Belluschi in Olympiakos, though Sevilla, Lazio, and Fiorentina are also interested in him.

So with Carrizo officially leaving at the end of this season, and Alexis Sanchez and Augusto Fernandez having good chances of departing, all "millo" fans are already starting to miss them. For now, River is one the right path in both continental and league play. Will we be able to do so again next season with a demolished squad?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Confirmed: River to Face San Lorenzo

With all eight groups of the Copa Libertadores 2008 finalized, the eight match-ups for the Round of Sixteen of the most important tournament in the Americas have been confirmed. River Plate have finished as the third best team in the general rankings, and will therefore face Argentine neighbors San Lorenzo. It will be an extremely tough 180 minutes, but to win the Copa you must have the ability to get through all the teams.
The next round of the Copa Libertadores will look as follows:

Fluminense (BRA) vs. Atletico Nacional (COL)
Flamengo (BRA) vs. America (MEX)
River Plate (ARG) vs. San Lorenzo (ARG)
Atlas (MEX) vs. Lanus (ARG)
Cruzeiro (BRA) vs. Boca Juniors (ARG)
Estudiantes (ARG) vs. LDU Quito (ECU)
Cucuta Deportivo (COL) vs. Santos (BRA)
Sao Paulo (BRA) vs. Nacional (URU)

*The full bracket is available here.

An interesting observation is that, depending on the final results of these eight games, we could just well see an all-Argentine/Brazilian Quarter-Finals.

San Lorenzo or Audax: Future Rivals?

After a convincing 5-0 win over Universidad San Martin of Peru, River must now look ahead to the Round of Sixteen of the Copa Libertadores.

Our future rivals are unknown for now. One thing has been confirmed though: it has been reduced to two candidates - San Lorenzo (ARG) or Audax Italiano (CHI). Both are very good teams, assuring River a complicated fixture in the next round of the continental tournament.

San Lorenzo has proven to be a fantastic team. Not only do they have some of the best players in Argentina at the moment (midfielder Andres D'Alessandro, foward Andres Silvera, foward Gonzalo Bergessio, defender Diego Placente, etc.), but they are managed by none other than Ramon Diaz. We have already faced them this semester and won (the match finalized 2-0 in our favor), but nothing is guaranteed to repeat. In fact, since then San Lorenzo have had a great improvement in terms of form, and now find themselves only 3 points away from River in the Torneo Clausura. The positive to facing them would be the fact that they are at a close distance and the squad would avoid jet lag/travel inconviniences.

Audax Italiano, on the other hand, are a less known team to "los Millonarios". Their first major international appearance took place last year, while this edition of the Copa Libertadores could be the first ever that they advance from the group stage. They in no way should be underestimated, though: Chilean wonderkid Carlos Villanueva is the head of the team, and could possess a serious threat to any team. The 22-year old has been performing in a great way over the last few years, and even found a way into the Chilean National Team. Other great players are also available for Audax, who could possibly be one of the surprises of the Copa.

After today's matches between Sportivo Luqueno-Audax Italiano and Sao Paulo-Atletico Nacional, the official fixtures will be known. Make sure to check back later on tonight for updates.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Argentina vs. Mexico - Ticket Information

Argentina and Mexico will be facing each other in a friendly match, to be played in Qualcomm Stadium (San Diego, California) on June 4, 2008. The match itself will begin at 8:00 PM Pacific Time.

Tickets have officially gone on sale today on Ticketmaster. They are available through a Visa-Presale (Visa cardholders can purchase them now, while others will have to wait till May 5th) at the following link: Argentina vs. Mexico Tickets (Ticketmaster)

The Hinchada Argentina (Argentinean fan base) will be sitting in Plaza Level around Section 52. To purchase tickets in this section, one must follow these three steps:

1) Click the above link.
2) Select the quantity of tickets you'd like to purchase. In the box next to it, select the $30 option.
3) Under section, choose "East End of Stadium".

One should then be offered tickets around Section 52 in Plaza level. These tickets are only $30 (cheap, compared to other tickets that go as high as $300) and are very close to the field. To make things even better, these tickets will allow you to sit with the Hinchada, which will be filled with flags, balloons, drums, and chants!

If you have any questions regarding tickets for this match, feel free to contact me.

*Note: Click on the above picture to get an enlarged view of the seating chart.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Rosario Central: 2 - River Plate: 1 - Torneo Clausura 2008

River lost to Rosario Central by 2-1, and therefore lost their unbeaten streak in the Torneo Clausura 2008. Despite initially being up 1-0 thanks to Diego Buonanotte, the home side were able to flip the score with goals by Emilio Zelaya and Martin Arzuaga.

I missed the game, but it is said to have been a good one. A more detailed review is available here, and the goals can be seen below:

As a side note, Argentine newspaper Ole claims that the referree did a poor job - not awarding River a penalty, not giving Central two well-deserved red cards, and subtracting one minute from the original injury time that had been given (played 3 extra minutes, instead of 4). A bit suspicious, but unsurprising nonetheless. As long as it doesn't happen again (especially in two weeks vs. Boca), I won't complain.

Friday, April 18, 2008

River Plate: 5 - Universidad San Martin: 0 - Copa Libertadores 2008

Who said River couldn't play well? After a week of critisizm from the press on River's lack of attractive football, "los Millonarios" -led by an inspired Sebastian Abreu- defeated Universidad San Martin in a game that corresponded to Group 5 of the Copa Libertadores. River only needed a tie to advance to the next round, but the team went farther than that and demolished the Peruvians with a final result of 5-0.

River played a good game in every aspect of the word. From the first minute, it was obvious that the plan was to pressure the away side and pile up the attack. "La Banda" did just that, not allowing San Martin to possess the ball for long periods of time. The midfield was strong, the offense was doing well, and the defense/Carrizo didn't even have to show up to this game considering how little San Martin did.

The Player Review -

Juan Pablo Carrizo: He could have stayed home and it wouldn't have even made a difference. To add to his positives, though, he gained yet another clean sheet -- his eleventh this season!
Paulo Ferrari: The left-back had a good game and efficiently assisted Falcao and Rios in River's second and fourth goals, respectively.
Gustavo Cabral and Nicolas Sanchez: The two central defenders didn't have much to do, but when they did, they got the job done.
Cristian Villagra: "Kity" had an excellent night, often launching some good offensive plays. He deserved a goal, but was unfortunate not to score. The ex-Rosario Central player has managed to keep up his good form and is having a quality season so far.
Leonardo Ponzio: The ex-Newell's Old Boys player had a great game, and keeps on moving up in my books. Everytime he plays, he does not stop recuperating balls and always contributes a little something to the attack. In a way, I sort of hope that Oscar Ahumada gets a two-match extension to his current suspension, just so Leo starts against Boca.
Matias Abelairas: "Pitu" is one of the players who has played most this season, and his statistics provide reasoning for this fact. As if he hadn't already participated in enough goals this season, Abelairas once again assisted Sebastian Abreu in a set piece. Good work by Matias.
Alexis Sanchez: The Chilean tried a lot, but did not have one of his best games. Despite that, he still gave a good assist to Abreu in River's first goal.
Radamel Falcao Garcia: The Colombian scored a fantastic goal (2-0) and was very active, running from up and down the field all night.
Rodrigo Archubi: The ex-Lanus player surprisingly started over Diego Buonanotte and did well while at it. He had a few good things here and there, and left an overall good impression.
Sebastian Abreu: A dream night for "el Loco". The Uruguayan scored 3 of the 5 goals for River, hit the post on another play, and gave several good passes. Nothing wrong at all. A great fact: in the last 4 games played by River in the Copa Libertadores, he has scored 6 goals (2 vs. Universidad Catolica -1 in away and 1 at home-, 1 vs. America, and 3 vs. Universidad San Martin).
The Substitutes -
Oscar Ahumada: The defensive midfielder replaced Ponzio and did not fill his role as well. Still, he didn't commit any errors, and atleast he didn't get expelled again!
Diego Buonanotte: The "dwarf" appeared in the second half and brought his jukes and electrifying style of play to the pitch. As usual, he was unstoppable and the rivals could do nothing but foul him.
Andres Rios: The young foward finally received a good opportunity under Simeone's management, and he did not let the chance pass by: he came in with the game 3-0, scored the 4th goal, and assisted the 5th. He also did very well last season with Daniel Passarella, and could eventually by an interesting option to replace Falcao once the Colombian is transfered.

The goals:

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

River - Universidad San Martin: The Preview

Tomorrow, River Plate will be playing for their qualification to the Round of Sixteen of the Copa Libertadores 2008. The match will be against Universidad San Martin of Peru and will be held in our home stadium, the Estadio Monumental.

The starting team hasn't been confirmed yet, but the lucky eleven are expected to be the following:

Juan Pablo Carrizo;
Paulo Ferrari-Gustavo Cabral-Nicolas Sanchez-Cristian Villagra;
Leonardo Ponzio-Matias Abelairas;
Alexis Sanchez-Radamel Falcao Garcia-Rodrigo Archubi;
Sebastian Abreu;

The best news, for now, is that Ariel Ortega has once again concentrated with the team for an official match, and even has good chances of being on the bench against the Peruvians. Mauro Rosales will also be returning.

As for the match, River must go out with the idea of not losing. The current standings in Group 5 are the following:

1. America (MEX) - 9 points; +2 goal difference
2. River Plate (ARG) - 9 points; +1 goal difference
3. Universidad San Martin (PER) - 6 points; -1 goal difference
4. Universidad Catolica (CHI) - 6 points; -1 goal difference

A win or a draw will automatically get the team through to the next round, while a loss will make our qualification depend on the final result of the Universidad Catolica-America match. Losing by more than one goal will put River's chances of advancing at great risk, while a 1 goal difference loss will still leave us with chances, though it would be very risky to go out to the field with that mentality. Many expect "los Millonarios" to assure at least one point in front of their home crowd, though recent memories remind us to not get too comfortable.

Due to being played at the same time as the Universidad Catolica-America match, our game will be showed on Tape Delay (the Mexican audience is much larger than any other in the USA) on Fox Sports en Espanol at 9:00 PM Pacific / 12:00 AM Eastern Time.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Lanus: 0 - River Plate: 1 - Torneo Clausura 2008

River Plate defeated Lanus by 1-0 in a victory that means more than 3 points: it means rising to the top, with 1 point more than Estudiantes and 4 more than Boca (the two tied this weekend vs. Arsenal and Banfield, respectively).

The match wasn't too entertaining, but River deserved the victory and were successful in obtaining it. The only goal of the game was scored by Diego Buonanotte, though a big part of thte credit should also be given to Juan Pablo Carrizo, who effectively stopped a penalty shot taken by Jose Sand in the second half.

The Player Review -

Juan Pablo Carrizo: As mentioned previously, the future Lazio player played a big role in the win by stopping a penalty towards the end of the game and preventing other clear chances from going into the net. Half way done with the Torneo Clausura, he has only conceded goals in one game (vs. San Martin (SJ)). Another interesting fact: of the 5 penalties he's had to defend in his career, he caught 3 (vs. Rosario Central, San Lorenzo, and Lanus).
Paulo Ferrari: The right-back did not go up to attack very often, but instead committed most of his time defending. He didn't do anything that caught anybody's attention, though - neither in a good or bad way.
Nicolas Sanchez: The best player in defense. The ex-Nueva Chicago player improved considerably as compared to his previous game (vs. America). He was much more solid, recuperating the ball constantly - just as we expected him to.
Gustavo Cabral: Cabral had been one of the most critisized defenders lately, but his absence in the Copa Libertadores proved to be disastrous (the team conceded 4 goals). To top it off, he played a very good game today and committed very few errors.
Cristian Villagra: Decent game, which included some recuperation, but nothing too magnificent. Just like Ferrari, he wasn't allowed to frequently add himself to the team's offense.
Augusto Fernandez: After being injured for a while, the right-winger returned to the first team line-up but proved to not be ready to start. He wasn't too active and missed a clear chance to score when the partial result was still 0-0.
Oscar Ahumada: The defensive midfielder came back from a minor injury and played a great game, stopping every player in his path. Unfortunately, he was forced to leave the pitch in the second half due to being injured again.
Matias Abelairas: "Pitu" didn't look like his usual self today. His shots were off target, his passes were imprecise, and his presence did not signify much importance to the team.
Alexis Sanchez: The Chilean was far from having his best game with a River jersey, but this doesn't mean that he didn't put any effort: he ran non-stop and pressured to regain possession (as usual). The excessive amount of minutes he has received in the last few weeks (as well as the long roundtrips to Tel Aviv and Mexico City) are commencing to become noticeable.
Diego Buonanotte: The "dwarf" played another great match to add to his already very good season. Not only did he score the game-winning goal, but he was the player who mostly insisted on opening up the match. He did, though, miss a clear opportunity at the beginning of the game, but his goal and effort recompensated for it.
Radamel Falcao Garcia: The Colombian did not have an overall good game and missed several clear opportunities.

The Substitutes -
Sebastian Abreu: The Uruguayan was surprisingly placed on the bench after scoring vs. America. Unfortunately, what was even more surprising was when he missed a clear one-on-one opportunity by accidently kicking the ground instead of the ball. He is producing a rather unpleasant habit of missing easy goals, and is starting to lose many fans' confidence.
Leonardo Ponzio: Leo replaced Ahumada and did a good job. He continued his streak of good form and almost scored the 2-0 (a great chipped shot that hit the post).
Nicolas Domingo: Not enough time to judge his performance.

The goal:

Thursday, April 3, 2008

America: 4 - River Plate: 3 - Copa Libertadores 2008

America of Mexico defeated River Plate 4-3 in the mystical Estadio Azteca. The match was full of defensive flaws, and could have easily gone one way or another.

River began the game surprising the home side. Not only did Leonardo Ponzio manage to surprise the "Aguilas" with a shot from 40 meters away (hit the post), but "los Millonarios" actually found the net with barely five minutes of gameplay. The goal was scored by Rodrigo Archubi, who had just scored his first goal with "la Banda" on Sunday. The first half would finalize with River holding a 1-0 partial lead, but what wasn't expected was such an electrifying last 45 minutes.

The second half presented fans of both teams with several celebrations and frustrations in just a matter of minutes. Rodrigo Iñigo and Enrique Esqueda were able to flip the score between the 53rd and the 55th minute, but not long after River would put the match back on level terms thanks to an own goal by Diego Cervantes. This caused America to go up looking for more goals, and it was the same Cervantes who was able to recompensate the home fans with a partial 3-2 victory. One minute later, though, the Uruguayan Sebastian Abreu (ex-America player) would once again tie for River. The 18-minute-goalfest would finally finish in the 69th minute, when Salvador Cabañas put the final touch to the final score of 4-3.

One may argue that River might have deserved the three points, but there is no doubt that the defense was worrying. In just 18 minutes, the team conceded 4 goals -- the same amount Carrizo had received in the last 7 games combined. Nicolas Sanchez is definitely not ready to play yet, Nasuti has been showing very poor performances lately, and Paulo Ferrari and Cristian Villagra weren't even seen throughout the night.

The goals:

The quest for the Libertadores continues, but first the team must advance from the Group Stage. All we needed was a draw, but after being unsuccessful, the squad will be looking to fix their errors and find at least one point against Universidad San Martin in two weeks.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

America - River: The Preview

River Plate will be facing America in the famous Estadio Azteca tomorrow. The game corresponds to Group 5 of the Copa Libertadores 2008.

Los Millonarios will be missing several players because of injuries: Ariel Ortega, Augusto Fernandez, Mauro Rosales, Diego Buonanotte, Oscar Ahumada, Eduardo Tuzzio, and Gustavo Cabral will all be out due to not being fit. Therefore, Diego Simeone has decided to field the following eleven:

Juan Pablo Carrizo;
Paulo Ferrari-Cristian Nasuti-Nicolas Sanchez-Cristian Villagra;
Leonardo Ponzio-Matias Abelairas;
Alexis Sanchez-Radamel Falcao Garcia-Rodrigo Archubi;
Sebastian Abreu

One of the most interesting points of the match will be to see how well Nicolas Sanchez has progressed from his injury. It is important to note that this will be his first official game since he was injured in October 2007 vs. Defensor Sporting.

As for the midfield, Rodrigo Archubi has won himself a spot for tomorrow thanks to his goal on Sunday (also partially because of all the unavailable midfielders). He will be returning a bit back, making the team have 3 defensive midfielders at times. Sanchez and Falcao, on the other hand, are expected to do the opposite and make a line of three fowards during periods of the game.

Regarding America, the team is arriving in the middle of a huge crisis - one of the largest in the club's history according to many. Think of the 2007 edition of River, but perhaps even worse. The coach and the President of the Mexican side have both agreed that they will resign from their positions at the end of the season, while the squad is also leaving weak promises on the field. Still, this doesn't mean we should underestimate the "Aguilas". We all know what getting big-headed can do (remember our good friends Caracas?), and players like Salvador Cabañas always possess a threat.

The game will be shown live on Fox Sports en Español at 8:00 PM Pacific / 11:00 PM Eastern Time.

As a side note, Universidad Catolica defeated Universidad de San Martin today (1-0 in favor of the Chileans). This leaves the group standings as follows:

1. River Plate: 3-0-1 (6/4, +2); 9 Points
2. CF América: 2-0-2 (6/5, +1); 6 Points
3. Univ. San Martín: 2-0-3 (4/5, -1); 6 Points
4. Universidad Católica: 2-0-3 (4/6, -2); 6 Points

This means that a loss tomorrow will still leave us as one of the two group leaders, while a tie or a win will automatically qualify us to the Round of Sixteen with one match remaining. Vamos River!

Monday, March 31, 2008

River Plate: 1 - Arsenal: 0 - Torneo Clausura 2008

River Plate defeated Arsenal de Sarandi yesterday, leaving "los Millonarios" alone at the top of the table. The final score was 1-0, with Rodrigo Archubi scoring the only goal of the night. Despite that, River failed to impress a single spectator who witnessed the match.

The game was slow, with neither of the two sides looking to bring something new to the pitch and defer from each other. Diego Buonanotte and Alexis Sanchez -the two usual electrifying players- made their attempts to improve the game quality, but both failed to complete their jukes and plays. Meanwhile, Ariel Ortega, Radamel Falcao Garcia, Augusto Fernandez, Oscar Ahumada, Gustavo Cabral, and Eduardo Tuzzio all watched the match from the sidelines (all but Ortega were injured). As if that weren't enough, Mauro Rosales was injured after 10 minutes of game time, forcing him to abandon the field and make room for a teammate.

Fortunately enough, the player that took over Rosales' spot was Archubi. Thanks to the ex-Lanus player we weren't left with yet another boring 0-0 vs. Arsenal (the first and second legs of the Copa Sudamericana 2007 brought us this result).

But Archubi shouldn't be the only player to be thanked for the three points: Goalkeeper Juan Pablo Carrizo had another fantastic game and was once again the hero on the pitch. With this clean sheet, he continues a great run of not receiving goals in 7 of the 8 matches played in the Clausura.

Unfortunately, more action happened in the stands on the field. The neverending war between different groups of hooligans continued at Velez's stadium (the game was played there due to a multi-day concert taking place in the Monumental). A group known as La Banda de Gonzalo (fraction corresponding to ex-Los Borrachos del Tablon leader Adrian Rousseau) clashed with "los del Oeste" (group that ruled before Adrian and Alan's era) causing panic and havoc in the stands. The fight was actually much more brutal than some imagine. The final result? Several people injured, and many others arrested. But the question is why did all this happen? It seemed somewhat inevitable, but where were the 700+ policemen who were payed to keep the fans safe? Innocent fans -including children and women- were present at the stadium and shouldn't have to be part of all this. This needs to come to an end. No to violence, yes to football.