Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Torneo de Verano 2008: Champions

After today's 1-0 victory over San Lorenzo, River were crowned champions of the Torneo de Verano 2008. Not like it has any significance, but this was the second year in a row in which "los millonarios" won the tournament, having won the previous edition in 2007.

This time around, Simeone presented us with a 4-2-2-2 -like formation. Although it was supposedly a 4-3-1-2 on paper, this is what it looked like on the field:

Juan Pablo Carrizo;
Paulo Ferrari-Cristian Nasuti-Gustavo Cabral-Cristian Villagra;
Oscar Ahumada-Matias Abelairas;
Mauro Rosales-Ariel Ortega;
Radamel Falcao Garcia-Sebastian Abreu;

The only goal of the match came through a penalty, taken by the Uruguayan Sebastian Abreu. Although the result implies a boring match, River displayed pretty attractive football (considering it was only a friendly game) and had complete domination over San Lorenzo. The final scoreline was rather minor, though it could have been increased if Paulo Ferrari had not missed his penalty shot. Either way, the team left me (and most River fans in general) happy with what they showed in their 90 minute of fame.

The Player Review -

Juan Pablo Carrizo: The goalkeeper seemed to be a little risky, just like vs. Boca, yet he had some good saves.
The Whole Defense: Solid. Except for a header by Bilos in the commencing moments of the match, San Lorenzo had little to no action in River's back-zone.
Oscar Ahumada: Good game for the DMF. He was over-praised by the Fox commentators, though there could have been something I missed. Still, I believe Ponzio deserves the spot over him.
Matias Abelairas: Recuperated a lot and did well. Not enough to deserve a spot in the starting eleven, but "Pitu" continues being a good alternative for those busy Libertadores-Clausura schedules.
Ariel Ortega: "El Burrito" continues being a magician. He had great jukes, those extremely impressive passes, those precise shots. He just played the first 45 minutes, but when he was on the field he was on fire.
Mauro Rosales: "Speedy" brought plenty of speed to the game (who would have thought that a guy with that nickname would do so?!). Still, he has plenty of room for improvement: his centers have gotten worse, and his moves are often predictable. If he completes a good pre-season, though, he will be very important to the team this coming semester.
Radamel Falcao Garcia: In Simeone's new system, Falcao is no longer the "goleador", but rather the complimenting striker. He was very active on the field, gave good passes, and almost scored a goal or two. In my opinion, he continues proving that he should be on the first team.
Sebastian Abreu: Took his penalty in a very good manner. In the rest of the match, he showed willingness and had some interesting things, though I would still put him behind Falcao.
The Substitutes -
Alexis Sanchez: The Chilean came in for the second half and completely upgraded River's offensive powers. His jukes dazzeled fans and pundits alike, while San Lorenzo's player could not stop fouling him. In fact, our only goal came from a penalty that was produced by a foul against him. From my point of view, he was the man of the match.
Diego Buonanotte: "El Enano" entered the field in the second half as well, and had a good game. He ran a lot and gave some great passes (including one that left Falcao one-on-one with the opposing goalkeeper). There is no doubt that he will be a vital super-sub in 2008.

Overall River left us with a positive image. They constantly attacked, yet maintained a solid defense. Another point I noticed was that the team displayed fast football, with many fast touches - something that was often missing in Passarella's era.

On Saturday we will be facing Boca Juniors once again. It will be another friendly match, but definitely not a game you'll want to miss.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

River Plate: 0 - Boca Juniors: 2 - Torneo de Verano 2008

Boca Juniors defeated River Plate by 2-0 in the annual Torneo de Verano Superclasico friendly match.

In the first half, River left the impression of being the better team, with a fast attack and an offensive mentality. Despite that, the blue-and-yellow side were the ones to find the partial advantage in the first half thanks to midfielder Sebastian Battaglia.

In the last fourty-five minutes, the gameplay from "los millonarios" decreased, causing Boca to find the finalizing goal after a header by Martin Palermo. This second goal was illegal, according to FIFA rules, since the #9 was hanging himself off the post.

Although this match wasn't too important due to being a friendly match,I would have wanted to see more from River. The new incorporations brought some of the biggest upsets, with very little action on behalf of Rodrigo Archubi and Sebastian Abreu. The best player, meanwhile, was Ariel Ortega - the new team captain. Now the question is: is the 3-3-3-1 formation suitable for River, or should we return to the old 4-3-1-2? Hopefully as time progresses the team starts functioning ideally to Simeone's standards and begins winning tournaments.

After facing San Lorenzo on Tuesday for the last game of the friendly tournament, River will have yet another encounter against Boca Juniors on Saturday.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Seven Million Dollar Man

I was astonished yesterday when I mentioned that River's representative in the National Team squad was going to be Marco Ruben. Even more surprisingly enough, there will no longer be any current River player in the game vs. Guatemala. How come -- was Ruben excluded from the list? No. One of the biggest shocks of the week was made official today, when "los millonarios" confirmed that the ex-Rosario Central foward will be sold to Villarreal of Spain for... seven million dollars! The transfer also guarantees us 15% of a future sale.

In many ways, this is good news. At the moment he was behind Abreu and Falcao, meaning that he wouldn't receive too many minutes this coming season. Not only that, but his statistics in River are anything but impressive (7 goals in 36 games). That's just barely a bit more than 3 goals per season.

Perhaps the best part of this whole sale (putting the economic point aside) is that it nearly confirms that Radamel Falcao Garcia will be staying. Just a few days ago the club mentioned that they were going to sell one of the two fowards, but selling both would enfuriate Diego Simeone. Besides, today they rejected a $12,460,000 offer from Deportivo La Coruna, meaning that Aguilar & Co. are in no hurry to sell this time around.

As for possible incorporations, Sebastian Leto continues being the closest option. Rumour has it that he has his arrival details confirmed and would be arriving on loan, yet without a future transfer clause.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Argentina-Guatemala Ticket Information; River Updates

The tickets for the Argentina-Guatemala game in Los Angeles are now officially on sale. I just ordered four from the official Ticketmaster website, and one can do the same by visiting this link (it will take you directly to the match page).

RESERVED SEATING $25.00 - $75.00

Internet Onsale to General Public: Tue, 01/22/08 05:00 PM PST

WED FEB 6 2008 7:30 PM

Although Lionel Messi has been excluded from the list due to being prone to injury (he just barely returned to the pitch), other great players will form part of the squad. Riquelme, Mascherano, Demichelis, Aguero, Lavezzi, Zabaletta, Higuain, Gago, amongst others, are part of the 18-man list. Besides the fact that many ex-River players will be present (Mascherano, Demichelis, and Higuain), a shocking surprise was the inclusion of a current "millonario" on the team: none other than Marco Ruben. Despite not being able to consolidate himself as a solid player for River, the ex-Rosario Central player has been called-up and could have a chance of playing in the Olympics if he completes an effective task.

As for River news, the transfer market is anything but closed. Sebastian Leto, an Argentine left-winger with little playing time in Liverpool, could follow Archubi's footsteps and join the club on the loan. The similarities between the two are more than alike: both play on the left wing, both would be arriving from Europe, both played in Lanus last year... the list can go on. Unfortunately, in order to bring in players, Aguilar puts his "I buy, I sell" rule to effect: the club is said to be prepared to sell one foward (either Falcao or Marco Ruben) to a European club before the start of the season. Falcao is wanted by Aston Villa, while Ruben is being followed closely by Deportivo La Coruna and Villarreal.

Apologies to everyone for turning this River blog into an Argentinean one. I contained myself during the Copa America and didn't make any posts related to the team, but I couldn't help it now: it's not everyday that the Argentine National Team comes to my city!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Off-topic: Argentina in Los Angeles

Argentina will be playing a friendly match vs. the Guatamalan National Team in Los Angeles on Wednesday, February 6th. The encounter will be part of the preparations for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The match will begin at 7:30 PM. The arriving squad is unknown for now, though it will be confirmed on Tuesday. Either way, it doesn't take a genious to anticipate a U-23 squad (with the additions of Riquelme, Demichelis, and Mascherano), due to the Argentine staff's will to prepare the team for the coming Olympics. Don't be surprised if players like Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Mauro Zarate, Gonzalo Higuain, Ever Banegas, Oscar Ustari, etc. form part of the team that will be playing the Central Americans.

The tickets, which will be priced between $25-75, will be available through several different methods:
- Outside the stadium in the ticket stands. Arguably the most common method, though one would have to wait in line.
- Online through Ticketmaster. This is probably the easiest way to get a hold of your tickets, though there is a small service fee.
- By charge by phone. In my opinion, the other two are the better options. Still, one can still chose to order them this way by calling (213)480-3232.

A huge positive to ordering them in advanced is that you will receive free admissions to see the team train in the Coliseum the day before the match (confirmed by the official website of the stadium). The training session will begin at 7:30 PM, and in order to get in you must present your actual game tickets.

I do not work for the company who is organizing this friendly match, nor do I get commission for every ticket sold. I am just a fanatic of Argentina, who will be attending the game and would like to see as many people as possible. If you (or anyone you know) have the opportunity, make sure to attend this event. I am trying to make this a huge party, so the taking of balloons, confetti, flags, etc. is highly welcomed. Spread the word!

*Note: Click on the image to enlarge it.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Third Incorporation: Rodrigo Archubi

River Plate have confirmed the arrival of Rodrigo Archubi on loan for six months. After his term with "la banda" concludes, "los millonarios" will have the possibility to purchase 50% of the transfer of the ex-Lanus player.

When everything indicated that he would joining the team last semester, the deal fell through. Fortunately enough, we were able to acquire Rodrigo this time around. He has signed his contract and will be traveling to Mar del Plata to meet and train with his fellow teammates tomorrow.

The arrival of Archubi will bring a lot of tranquility to Diego Simeone: the 22-year old is accustomed to playing both as a left-back and a left-winger, positions in which we currently lack talented players. Rodrigo knows how to attack and defend, and therefore pictures to be a vital part of Simeone's tactics. Statistically, he is also an interesting player: despite arriving from an unsuccessful season in Greece, he was able to play for Lanus's starting team for over four years and achieved a tournament title with the Argentine National U-20 team in the 2005 World Cup.

Having incoporated a defender (Gustavo Cabral), a midfielder (Rodrigo Archubi), and a foward (Sebastian Abreu) over this pre-season break, River Plate will be retiring from the transfer market sooner than later. A maximum of four player inscriptions are allowed over the Summer session in Argentina, meaning that "el cholo" could be looking to bring in one more player to complete his fantasy team.

As for tomorrow's game vs. Racing (second round of the Torneo de Verano 2008), River will once again use an alternative squad. The game will be shown on tape delay on Fox Soccer Channel at 8:00 PM Pacific / 11:00 PM Eastern Time, as well as on Fox Sports en Espanol at 12:00 AM Pacific / 3:00 AM Eastern Time.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Official Traitor

Not to long ago, I had mentioned the possibility of an ex-River player joining Boca Juniors. Unfortunately, the undesirable became reality a few days ago, when Julio Cesar Caceres signed his contract with the Xeneizes, confirmed his arrival, and even tried on his new jersey.

The transfer of the Paraguayan to Boca has left a very bitter taste in the mouth of River Plate fans. Less than two years ago, he was our undisputed starting center-back, and was even chosen as captain of the team by Daniel Passarella. That same year, he received more minutes than almost any other player on the team, and also constantly received a standing ovation on behalf of the fans. When his loan came to an end, Jose Maria Aguilar attempted to make his stay with los millonarios permanent, but Caceres was unhappy with his contract terms and decided to head over to Spain to join Gimnastic.

After his departure, River continued making gestures every six months to bring him back. I don't believe I have to state the final result of our efforts. But despite that, things were never as bad as they are now with Julio Cesar. How one can go from being idolized and being the captain of a team, to almost singlehandedly deciding to join their arch-rivals is beyond me. But perhaps the most unpleasant detail in this whole transfer is that he publicly stated that he would resign money to join Boca. Yes: we are talking about the same guy who left River in 2006 due to not being paid enough. In fact, Tigres initially rejected the Bosteros' proposals, yet JC's monotnous desire to wear Boca's jersey forced the Mexicans to back down and let him go.

My opinion of Caceres' skill has not changed one bit. I still see him as a talented defender with tons of experience (played in Europe, South America, and Mexico; participated in the World Cup), a strong personality, and good defensive characteristics. Honestly, though, the Paraguayan has let me down, and I fail to realize how one can be so cold-hearted and lack soul and respect towards the fans.

With that said, I hope he fractures his knee in the Torneo de Verano and never touches a ball again.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Copa Libertadores: Group 5 Update

With yesterday's win over Cruz Azul by penalties, America (MEX) have qualified to the Libertadores as Mexico 2 and therefore will be in River's group. The group will looking as follows:

Group 5
America (MEX)
River Plate (ARG)
Universidad San Martin (PERU)
U. Catolica (CHI)

Looks like a complicated group, in my opinion. I don't expect a failure, such as the one we saw last year, but it won't be an easy six games for River either. The first match for "los millonarios" will be played in Lima, Peru against Universidad San Martin. Vamos River!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

River Plate: 1 - Independiente: 1 - Torneo de Verano 2008

River Plate tied 1-1 with Independiente in their first game of the Torneo de Verano 2008.

In his debut as the club's coach, Diego Simeone decided to set-up a team that consisted of reserve players and youngsters. The following eleven started today:

Juan Marcelo Ojeda;
Danilo Gerlo-Mateo Musacchio-Cristian Nasuti-Cristian Villagra;
Damian Lizio-Nicolas Domingo-Matias Abelairas-Diego Buonanotte;
Sebastian Sciorilli-Marco Ruben;

The overall display wasn't anything spectacular, but one must realize that it was a completely secondary team. In fact, not many of these players will be on the first team in the coming season, if any at all.

Here are the highlights of the match:

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Two New Incorporations

Two new players are on their way to becoming River's latest incorporations: if everything goes as expected, Gustavo Cabral (pictured above) and Rodrigo Archubi will be wearing "la banda" next season.

Cabral has actually already began his career with the Riverplatenses. After finalizing the transaction for $1,500,000 for 50% of the transfer, the now ex-Racing player passed by the Monumental and signed his new contract. Despite have only 22 years of age, he has plenty of experience: he debuted for "la academia" when he was 18, and since then has racked up an impressive 110+ matches in Primera. But that wasn't his only accomplishment: in 2005, he integrated the Argentine U-20 National Team squad (who later went on to win the Youth World Cup that year), a team that was completely free of River players. Gustavo is an interesting prospect for the future for both River and Argentina, so his time with "los millonarios" could be vital to the remainder of his career.

While Gustavo was in Nunez finalizing the last details on his compact, Rodrigo Archubi was in Piraeus, Greece, anxiously waiting for a new chapter in River's transfer book. His loan with Olympiakos wasn't as successful as expected, yet River are still highly interested in incorporating the ex-Lanus player to the squad. In fact, a final agreement is close to being reached, since the businessman Pinas Zavahi will invest on the left-winger and ultimately loan him to "los millonarios"

As for other transfers, the always-wanted Andres D'Alessandro continues on expressing his desire to return. His lack of minutes in Zaragoza, combined with his enthusiasm of a possible six month loan, make the rumours of a transfer to River come to life. Chances remain slim, though why not dream?

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Abreu to River, Belluschi to Olympiakos

With 2008 just barely beginning, River have officially confirmed two transfers: one in, and one out. The club will be presenting Sebastian Abreu, who will arrive as a free agent on loan for 18 months. Meanwhile, Fernando Belluschi will be dismissing himself from his friends and family, as he prepares to travel to Greece to join Olympiakos.

A pleasant surprise, though, is the news of Radamel Falcao Garcia's temporary stay with "los millonarios". Everything indicated that he would be sold to Fluminense of Brazil, but the suspicious deal ultimately feel. Despite that being good news for us River fans, I still use the term "temporary", since he can always be sold to another club before February. If he does indeed stay, he will have to fight for a spot in the starting eleven with Sebastian Abreu, Alexis Sanchez, Mauro Rosales, Marco Ruben, Andres Rios, Diego Buonanotte, and others.

Besides the arrival of Abreu, River are still looking into the possibilities of incorporating either Rodrigo Archubi or Sergio Almiron on loan to reinforce the left side of our midfield. As for the defense, the club is still concentrating on Facundo Quiroga, but they may look to bring in Gustavo Cabral of Racing, since the possibilities of bringing in Wolfburg's defender are extremely slim. Another name that was mentioned was that of Julio Cesar Caceres, who previously played six months with the club in 2006. Surprisingly enough, the team to which he is now most closely linked to is Boca Juniors, our arch-rivals. If his transfer goes through, he will be one of the few traitors since Gabriel Cedres.

As a side note, the right-hand side "Fixtures and Results" bar has been updated. It now includes the match dates for River throughout the next six months (Torneo de Verano, Torneo Clausura, and Copa Libertadores). Minor schedule changes may be made in the future, though the matches are expected to be played on those days for now.