Thursday, August 30, 2007

Welcome Back!

Although it may seem like it, this post has nothing to do with Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. In fact, it may even be a bigger hit than the children's TV show.


Today, August 30, 2007, the return of Juan Pablo Carrizo to River Plate has been made official. Since his departure a month ago, the 23-year old goalkeeper has not been able to get his European Passport. The Italians do not want him to take up a foreign spot on the team, and have not even paid a single penny for the transfer yet. Therefore, they decided to loan him out to another club for the rest of the season.

Despite having offers from Real Zaragoza and Racing Santander (both from Spain), Carrizo opted to return to River Plate. The question is, will he get his spot back? The question may seem ridiculous due to his amazing capabilities, but taking Juan Marcelo Ojeda out of the starting goalkeeper spot would be like a slap in the face to ex-Rosario Central player. Not only that, but his self-esteem and confidence could possibly drop, and who knows if he will ever recuperate his current form again. In my opinion, Carrizo should start in the Torneo Apertura, while Ojeda should be given a shot in the Copa Sudamericana. If one of them under-performs, the other would take his place. It would be a pity to not have Carrizo start in every game, but Ojeda has been doing plenty to deserve more than a spot on the bench.

Opinions?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

River Plate: 4 - Estudiantes: 2 - Torneo Apertura 2007

The smile on Fernando Belluschi's face says it all: River finally returned to the win, and in a convincing way while at it! With some great performances, "la Banda" managed to outplay Estudiantes and deservedly keep the three points for the first time in the tournament.

The match started with an unpleasant surprise that seemed to foreshadow a future similar to a disappointing past. Barely two minutes into the match, Leandro Benitez put the "Pincharatas" up with an exquisite header. River did not take long to react, though, and put the score back on term just four minutes later, thanks to a potential shot taken by Fernando Belluschi. But Belluschi's good game wasn't over just yet: at the 23rd minute of the first half, Fernando assisted Marco Ruben, who was finally able to score this season. With River showing a good display of football, the team had a few more opportunities to enlarge the goal difference between the two, but did not manage to put the ball past the net.

At the beginning of the second half, River was not showing the same positive display. Despite not playing well either, Estudiantes were able to attain more possession and had a few good chances. To make things worse, Fernando Belluschi was expelled at the 32nd minute due to going in with a dangerous sliding tackle. Not much long after, the Uruguayan Salgueiro tied the match. With less than ten minutes left, everything seemed to indicate that the game would finish in a 2-2 draw, leaving River with barely three points and far from the top of the rankings. Fortunately for us, that wasn't the end of the story. Alexis Sanchez, arguably our best incorporation this season, was able to enter the field and put on the superhero costume. With constant pressure, the Chilean foward managed to steal the ball from an Estudiantes defender and easily put it past Mariano Andujar (Estudiantes' goalkeeper). Sanchez also assisted Radamel Falcao in the 92nd minute, in what was the goal of the week (and probably of the season as well).

The Player Review -
Juan Marcelo Ojeda:
The ex-Rosario Central goalkeeper might have not been as great as in the last two matches, but he did not do bad either. In fact, both of Estudiantes' goals were fantastic and impossible for him to stop. One thing I noticed from him, though, is that he seems to have "butterfingers". Since his debut for River, I've been noticing that he stops shots very well but doesn't seem to actually sustain the ball. Still, Ojeda's image has been much more positive than negative so far. One important thing: Juan Pablo Carrizo is rumoured to return to River for 6 more months due to Lazio's failure to make the first payment. If he does return, Ojeda's regularity will be postponed till next season.
Paulo Ferrari: The new team capitan played an average game. He contributed to the team with his speed, but still didn't do anything too great. Better regular than bad, right?
Nicolas Sanchez: Very similar to Ferrari. An average game for Sanchez, who improved after a few bad performances.
Cristian Nasuti: El "Tano" did a good job before being substituted during half-time. After a long time out due to injuries, Nasuti returned and convinced more than Eduardo Tuzzio. Will he start again on Sunday?
Cristian Villagra: *Sighs*. I thought Cristian was finally putting on a decent performance, but he still failed to impress me. In fact, he committed an error during Estudiantes' second goal. It wasn't directly his fault, but if we would have ended up tieing 2-2, I'd be ready to chop his head off right now! Seriously, though: don't we have any left-backs in our lower divisions?
Fernando Belluschi: I was surprised to see Belluschi's good level of play today. Today's game was the closest he's gotten to his old form for a long time. Besides the goal (1-1) and the assist (2-1), he ran around the whole field and was very active. It was disappointing to see him get expelled after such a good performance. According to the TyC Sports commentators, he only deserved a yellow card. Depending at the way you look at it, it could have been the correct or incorrect decision. No matter if it's right or wrong, Belluschi will miss out on Sunday's game vs. Racing.
Oscar Ahumada: I did not like Ahumada too much today. One negative point was the he intentionally hit an Estudiantes players in our area during a corner kick in favor of the opposition. Luckily the ref did not see it, else we would have been left with 9 players and a penalty against us. In other words, with better vision by the refferree, we could have lost the game due to Ahumada's stupidity.
Augusto Fernandez: The youngster, made in River's lower divisions, did a fine job (as usual). His speed and jukes contributed a lot to the team, and completed a good performance with a very offensive midfield (Ariel Ortega and Fernando Belluschi alongside). Much of the fourth goal was thanks to him, after making a good play with Lima and eventually passing it to Alexis Sanchez.
Ariel Ortega: El "Burrito" might have not played as well as in the other matches, but he is still an important part of the team. He gave a few good passes today, but his tiredness from the long series of games was more than obvious.
Marco Ruben: The ex-Rosario Central striker improved today. He seemed to be more active and actually looked for the ball a lot more. This may be the reason he finally was able to score (with an excellent header). Still not perfect, but an improvement nonetheless.
Radamel Falcao Garcia: The Colombian did not have a very good match, but he still put the ball through the net. I am very impressed by him physically. Am I the only one to notice that he always runs around and apparently never gets tired?!?
The Substitutes -
Federico Lussenhoff: El "Colorado" entered during half-time to substitute Cristian Nasuti. This substitution was only made for precaution, since Nasuti had been inactive for a long time now. Either way, both players delivered a good performance.
Alexis Sanchez: The Chilean did a fantastic job and scored one goal (3-2) and assisted another (4-2). Unlike vs. San Martin (SJ), Alexis seemed to have a good connection with his teammates. His constant pressure and willingness to recuperate the ball help out tremendously (just look at how his first goal for River was made!). Next to Belluschi, I think Sanchez was the man of the match.
Rene Lima: Rene came in towards the end of the game to help defensively, but he actually contributed to scoring the fourth goal! The defensive midfielder impresses everytime he comes in, and could have an important future with "la banda".

On Sunday we will face Racing Club, who's football has been going uphill lately. Will we be able to conquer a new win? Only time will tell.

*Note: Click on the text in red to view each of the six goals of the match.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

River - Estudiantes: The Preview

River Plate will be facing Estudiantes (LP) tomorrow in what will be a very tough and important match. In the historical records, River is clearly leading in wins (84 wins, 31 ties, 31 losses), though the last few compromises have ended in favor of Estudiantes. The last time River kept the three points was in March 2006, when the team was able to win 3-1 with goals by Jonathan Santana, Gonzalo Higuain, and Ernesto Farias. Only one year and a half have passed, yet neither of those three players remain at the club.

With so many changes made by Passarella every round, it is hard to predict the probable line-up. *Updated - This following players are expected to start:

Juan Marcelo Ojeda;
Paulo Ferrari-Cristian Nasuti-Nicolas Sanchez-Eduardo Tuzzio;
Augusto Fernandez-Oscar Ahumada-Fernando Belluschi;
Ariel Ortega;
Marco Ruben-Radamel Falcao Garcia


Several surprising changes will be made. Eduardo Tuzzio and Leonardo Ponzio, who have been playing bad lately, will be replaced by Cristian Nasuti and Augusto Fernandez, respectively. Meanwhile, Marco Ruben will start over Mauro Rosales, one of our best players so far.

Estudiantes, despite still being a great team, is not the same one we saw crowned the champions of the Torneo Aperutra 2006: Mariano Pavone (their top-goalscorer) and Jose Sosa (an extremely talented midfielder) have both been sold. Other great players such as Juan Sebastian Veron, Diego Galvan, and Rodrigo Brana are all injured.

Another loss will cause even more fury for the fans and may result in the speculated departure of Daniel Passarella. Although he is unlikely to leave, several directives wish to refresh the airs and bring in a new head coach. Boca Juniors legend Carlos Bianchi was named as a possibility, but he rapidly rejected any possibilities. Diego Simeone (currently in charge of Estudiantes) is another candidate, though it would be odd to see him leave his current role, in which he is more than comfortable. We must still be careful, though, fore great players such as Pablo Piatti and Ivan Moreno y Fabianesi will still be present. This team may be lacking some of their stars, but they will be anything but easy to beat.

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

Monday, August 27, 2007

Friday, August 24, 2007

Gimnasia (JJ): 2 - River Plate: 2 - Torneo Apertura 2007

First off, I want to apologize to everyone for the lack of updates. I am currently experiencing computer problems, which reduces my online time tremendously. Fortunately for me, it seems as if my technical inconveniences may be resolved sooner than expected.

Back on subject: River faced Gimnasia (Jujuy) yesterday in a match that was a make-up of the suspended game between the two in the first round of the Torneo Apertura 2007. The final score was 2-2, with both teams having possibilites to win at different points throughout the 90 minutes.

River played a very good first half, which showed a team with a positive attitude and good teamwork. After several good attempts, the match was opened by Mauro Rosales, after a fantastic assist by Ariel Ortega. The score could have been extended, but the players were not able to conquer the opportunities they were presented with. Gimnasia managed to take advantage of that, and found the 1-1 tie during stoppage time (46 minutes of the first half) with a stupendous shot by Carranza.

Gimnasia (JJ) were a bit more than River during the second half, reason why Juan Marcelo Ojeda was transformed into one of the key players of the match. Despite stopping even the toughest plays, the ex-Rosario Central player was unable to stop Pieter's powerful shot (which began with a foul on Ortega that the ref did not call). The ball ended inside of the net, putting the Jujenos up for the first time in the game. Rolando Zarate eventually made his way in from the bench, and scored in the first opportunity he was given. Both sides put on a good display, making the 2-2 score reasonable in a way.

The Player Review -
Juan Marcelo Ojeda: Undeniably one of the best players on the field. He was able to present us with his first fantastic display with a River jersey, and surprisingly made us not miss Carrizo for the first time since his departure.
Leonardo Ponzio: Just like vs. San Lorenzo, the Argentine International looked out of position and fouled plenty. So far he has not been convincing in the right-back position. Will he play as a defensive midfielder vs. San Martin (SJ)?
Eduardo Tuzzio: It's been a good while since we've seen the "old" Tuzzio. Ever since the end of last season, he has been committing too many errors and has provided a sense of insecurity to the fans. Is it time for him to step aside?
Nicolas Sanchez: The ex-Nueva Chicago player did not impress too much, but did play well vs. San Lorenzo. Still, he is only 21 and has plenty of time to grow.
Paulo Ferrari: During the first half, Paulo put on a good display, providing help defensively and offensively. He did exactly the contrary in the second 45 minutes, in which he was useless. The use of him in the left side (instead of the right side) might be the excuse for his poor performance.
Matias Abelairas: For now, his 2007 Peace Cup peformances were only a shadow of his actual league games. Abelairas has potential, though, and will be given more chances to prove himself.
Oscar Ahumada: The defensive midfielder played well and won in almost all his challenges. He left a good image.
Augusto Fernandez: The right-midfielder contributed a lot with his speed and jukes. Still, I know a lot more can be squeezed out of this youngster.
Ariel Ortega: Just like in the second half vs. San Lorenzo, "el Burrito" was a key part of the team. This time, though, he played the whole 90 minutes as our playmaker. He gave fatal passes throughout the match, including a great assist to Rosales in our first goal. He looked exhausted in the second half, but he still was one of the best of the game.
Mauro Rosales: In my opinion, the ex-Newell's player was the man of the match. Besides the excellent shot that opened up the game for River, Mauro also stole the ball and centered the ball perfectly for Rolando Zarate in the second goal. His potential shots, passes, speed, and jukes are exactly the reason why Rosales has to be a starter for "la banda".
Marco Ruben: Very, very poor match. His lack of good performances, as well as Zarate's goal, are the reasons why he should be on the bench for now.
Substitutes -
Rolando Zarate: Surprised everyone by scoring in his debut for los millonarios. He scored after a quality header, and proved that his goal-scoring instincts are still intact. If you ask me, he should be given a chance as a starter alongside Rosales.
Sixto Peralta: The other debutee of the night played as horrible as we expected. Besides being extremely slow, he barely even managed to touch the ball. To top it off, he replaced Rosales, causing our offensiveness to drop tremendously. I hope he doesn't receive any more opportunities.
Rene Lima: The #5 did not play enough time to be judged.

The most worrisome part of the team was the defense. Believe it or not, they played even less convincingly than vs. San Lorenzo. Something must be done to fix it, because we won't get anywhere defending like that. Maybe replacing Eduardo Tuzzio with Cristian Nasuti or Federico Lussenhoff? Perhaps. Only time will tell.

On a side note, Alexis Sanchez managed to score three goals in his first practice with River. He impressed the coaching staff so much that Daniel Passarella has decided to take him to San Juan to face San Martin on Sunday. It is almost assured that he will not be a starter, but the sign that he will most probably be on the bench is good.

For now we only have 2 of the 6 possible points we played for. The fact that we are 7 points away from league leaders Independiente (we have one game less) is worrisome. A win on Sunday will be essential for the squad's chance this season.

Monday, August 20, 2007

San Lorenzo: 1 - River Plate: 1 - Torneo Apertura 2007

The night pictured to be a good one. After two suspended matches, River was finally going to debut in the Apertura 2007! Despite not having any big signings, I couldn't help but to get excited over the return of my favorite team to my television screen. But what I ended up seeing in the first half was more of the same: River continued their bad and unharmonized play, causing my faith on success to drop once again. San Lorenzo, the defending champions of the Argentine League, didn't show anything close to "jogo bonito" either, but atleast managed to find a goal thanks to a defensive disaster in River's area: Eduardo Tuzzio left Andres Silvera completely unmarked during a free-kick, leaving him alone to header after a good assist by Osmar Ferreyra.

After the half-time break, River were able to revert the game situation and now dominated the match. The bad passes, the "no longer than five second" posessions, the lack of heart, etc. now seemed like a thing of the past. It's not that that the team was amazing (in fact they were far from it), but they now actually looked like they had a shot of fighting up top this time around. The tie finally arrived after a controversial penalty was called in favor of "los millonarios". Later on in the match, Radamel Falcao Garcia hit the post with a great, potential shot. Unfortunately, we were not able to find the second goal that we deserved and had to be satisfied with a tie.

So what caused the big change in the second half? The answer is more than obvious: Ariel Ortega played the last 45 minutes as our playmaker, something we were missing in the first part of the game. Everybody insisted in the 4-3-1-2 formation, and yesterday's game proved why. The 4-4-2 does not fit River's style of play at all, reason for which Ortega should be River's playmaker through the rest of the season. Besides the need for one, el Burrito's amazing passes are still alive, making him a lot more suitable for this position instead of a foward. The Argentine Press claims that Passarella may be analyzing this option, but will he take action?

*Note: Click the text in red to view the goals.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Aguilar is at it Again: Loss of Three Players?

I must be a big fool to have fallen in Aguilar's trap. Just two days ago, I was celebrating the arrivals of Alexis Sanchez and Rodrigo Archubi, but I really shouldn't have expected things to last that long. Already three weeks into the Argentine Apertura, we are on the merge of losing three players: one defender, one midfielder, and one foward.

The truth is, we already lost two of them. The midfielder was Rodrigo Archubi. Although we did not sell him, it ends up that he actually had never signed a contract with River, despite basically being our player, and received a better offer from Olympiakos. It isn't a surprise that he decided to opt for the Greek team. The foward, meanwhile, is Federico Higuain, Gonzalo's older brother. He was sold to Besiktas of Turkey for $1,650,000 dollars. Higuain, who had arrived at 10 years of age at the club, was behind all the other fowards on River's list, so he chose to move to Europe.

The other player we may lose is Cristian Nasuti. Yes, when the club's dirigentes and coaching staff protest about the lack of central midfielders, they let their greed for money take over the team's ambitions of actually competing to win a title. Upon hearing of Olympiakos interest in "el Colorado", Aguilar instantly put on his guilty smile and decided to negociate with the Greeks. Archubi's new team is willing to offer 1.5 million euros for Nasuti, which, truth be told, isn't much.. especially considering that we only own 50% of his transfer.

At River there is no such thing as tranquility now-a-days. If it's not the internal barra-brava problems, it's Aguilar selling our players and hopes of winning something. If it's neither of those two things, it's our matches being suspended. The list can go on with infinite reasons of why our "fantastic institution", as Aguilar calls it, is being torn down in flames. The only cure will be to win a tournament this time around, but will it ever be possible with this President?

*Note: Click on the image to enlarge it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Archubi & Alexis Sanchez New Millonarios

After weeks of negative news, some good news has finally appeared in sight: Rodrigo Archubi (left midfielder) and Alexis Sanchez (foward) will join River Plate in our quest to conquer at least one tournament in the coming season.

Both are very interesting players, and may play a key role in the team's performance. Archubi plays on the left side, a position in which we lack players, and runs up and down throughout the match. He was very important for Lanus, as well as the Argentine U-20 side, in which he won a Youth World Cup. Luckily for us, he got in an argument with Lanus' coach, making his transfer much more accessible. In fact, the club's dirigentes did not let him go easily, and barely accepted to sell him upon seeing the 3 million euro offer a few businessmen did on behalf of River. Still, we won't have the federative rights for Rodrigo, since the businessmen are only loaning him to us, though we will have an option to buy 50% of his transfer after a year.

As for Alexis Sanchez, he is a great foward with plenty of future ahead of him. At only 18 years of age, he has won more tournaments than River has in the last three years! He is quick, talented, and with plenty of potential. It isn't a coincidence that Udinese quickly spotted him and purchased him over a year ago. Despite that, the Italians want him to gain more experience and would like to recuperate a bit of the cash they invested on him. This is the exact reason for which he will arrive at River only on loan. Either way he will still be one of the best incorporations of any Argentine team in this pre-season.

One thing that worries me is that we do not have a classical #9, the type that scores EVERY single shot he gets. For now, these are our fowards:

- Marco Ruben: The player with most chances of being our top goalscorer. Despite that, he hasn't scored too many goals since he arrived at the club in January.
- Mauro Rosales: The ex-Newell's Old Boys player is great and changes the teams game tremendously, but he isn't the goleador type of foward.
- Ariel Ortega: "El Burrito" is pretty much in the same situation as Mauro Rosales.
- Alexis Sanchez: The Chilean is similar to Rosales and Ortega in the goal aspect. Who knows, he could cause a surprise, though: he scored 3 goals vs. Caracas in the Copa Libertadores 2007, the same team that eliminated us in the group stage!
- Radamel Falcao Garcia: The Colombian promised to take care of our goal-needing offense when he first debuted, but was never able to get his swagger back after his injury. Ever since he came back, he misses even the easiest goals.
- Rolando Zarate: The 29 year old used to be the exact definition of a "goaleador", but was punished with injuries and loss of gameplay. For now he doesn't excite me too much, but we will have to wait and see how he evolves.
- Federico Higuain: Gonzalo's older brother had been on loan with Nueva Chicago for the last 2 years and scored plenty of goals. Still, Daniel Passarella doesn't seem to like him too much, making it is very likely that he won't receive too many chances.

Behind all these fowards we also have several promising youngsters such as Andres Rios and Sebastian Sciorilli. For now our offense, despite lacking usual goal scorers, looks very promising. I do not want to get as excited as last pre-season (..we all know how that ended), but the team does look a bit better than previously. Hopefully the players will be able to reincarnate my hopes.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Suspended.

What happened to the good old days, when Alan and Adrian (Los Borrachos Del Tablon's leaders) couldn't be seperated, when the stands would sport thousands of red and white balloons, each of them displaying an anti-violence message? It seems that now-a-days all of that is gone, and it is affecting EVERYONE revolving around River.

For those unfamiliar with the story, the two best friends (Alan and Adrian) got in an argument involving the barra's incoming money in February. But it wasn't just any argument: the fight seperated the two and foreshadowed even worse events in the future. Not long after, there was an incident outside the Monumental in out debut in the Torneo Clausura 2007. In fact, a few weapons were present that day, leaving blood spills outside of our stadium on a game day that was full of families. But that wasn't the end of it. A few months later Adrian's house door had bullet marks left on it, although nobody was hurt. But the worst episode of this dramatic story happened just a few days ago, when Gonzalo Acro (Adrian's "sidekick") was shot two times in the forehead and once in the arm. After 32 hours of suffering from brain damage, the barra-brava member died, becoming the first fatal victim of the saga. Although he may be the first, everything seems to indicate that he won't be the last: Adrian has publicly promised to gain revenge on his ex-best friend and co-leader of 6 years. He has even received an offer from a close friend who has a fatal illness. This anonymous person is willing to risk his life in order to get payback for Gonzalo's death.

As mentioned previously, these unfortunate events have affected everyone, from Los Borrachos del Tablon, to River's staff and team, to the fans. What has happened besides this disgusting death and the destroyed lives of Acro's family and friends? Well, the security administration have decided to postpone River-Newell's due to the possibility of having another act of violence occur outside of our stadium. This means that we will have to wait yet another week to see the team, when we go visit current league title defenders San Lorenzo. This will also result in the exhaustion of our players, who will have to deal with Torneo Apertura, Copa Sudamericana, and postponed matches.

In other news, Daniel Vega (goalkeeper) and Nicolas Sanchez (defender) have bothed joined the team from Nueva Chicago, a now B-Division side. They have been added to our list of incorporations, which also include Sixto Peralta and Rolando Zarate. Besides them, Rodrigo Archubi has one foot in the Monumental, while the negociations for Alexis Sanchez are still taking place.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Torneo Apertura 2007: The Preview

The Argentine league is always an important tournament for River Plate. Having won 32 of these titles in our 106 year history, the club never got tired of winning the tournament... or so it seemed! Unfortunately, our luck ended a while back, due to not being able to lift a single trophy in over 3 years (the Clausura 2004 being the last thing we won). This time around, the team must go all out and play with heart and passion to bring joy to the fans for a change. Here's the preview of the Torneo Apertura 2007:

Candidates to take it all:
- Boca Juniors: Without a doubt one of the main candidates. Our classic rivals have fought till the end in the las two Argentine leagues and were able to win the 2007 Copa Libertadores. They have a strong team, with great players such as Rodrigo Palacio, Neri Cardozo, Pablo Ledesma, Morel Rodriguez, etc. Not only that, but the club hasn't experienced any major losses over this offseason break. With Leandro Gracian and Juan Roman Riquelme named as possible last-minute reinforcements, Miguel Angel Russo might be able to make his squad even stronger than it already is.
- Estudiantes: Diego Simeone's side, in my opinion, was the best overall team of the 2006/2007 season (Apertura '06 & Clausura '07 combined). Despite having lost key players such as Mariano Pavone, Jose Sosa, and Jose Luis Calderon, they still have a good team with great players like Juan Sebastian Veron, Pablo Piatti, Rodrigo Brana, etc. They have made some interesting signings (including Diego Galvan from River, who got injured for 7 months in a friendly match!), but they will obviously not be nearly as good of a side as they were last semester.
- San Lorenzo: The current Argentine champions could not be left out of the list. Unfortunately for Ramon Diaz, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Cristian Ledesma -two of their key players- have migrated to Europe. They were arguably the best reinforced team this offseason, though, having brought in Bernardo Romeo, Daniel Bilos, Gaston Aguirre, amongst others.
- Indpendiente: Could be the surprise team if they get their act together. Last semester they were miserable, but they actually do have a good squad. Daniel Montegro is one of the best midfielders in Argentina, having proved it in Hurcana, Independiente, and River Plate. Up front they also have German Denis, a deadly foward, and Ismael Sosa, a promising youngster whom Sergio Aguero named as the future of Argentine football. Other good players such as Gioda, Machin, or Mareque could also leave there mark. I wouldn't name them as one of the top candidates just yet, but they could easily transform themselves into a great team if they find a way to get their football back.

Key Players:
Over 50 players have left the Argentine league over this pre-season break. That list includes some of the best players we saw last season (Carrizo, Ustari, Di Maria, Leto, Jose Sosa, Oscar Cardozo, Nunez, Pavone, Mauro Zarate, etc.). So with all these great players playing in Europe, who will take their roles of stars of the Apertura? Well, despite losing a huge amount of talent, great players still do exist: keep an eye open for Maximiliano Moralez (Racing Club), Augusto Fernandez (River Plate), Damian Escudero (Velez Sarsfield), Martin Arzuaga (Rosario Central) Neri Cardozo (Boca Juniors), Pablo Piatti and Pablo Luguercio (Estudiantes). These are the generally younger players. Besides them, more experienced players like Veron, Belluschi, Palacio, Montenegro, Rosales, and Calderon will be looking to continue proving their effectiveness in the league.

The tournament will begin on Sunday, August 12th for us, when we face Newell's Old Boys in our home stadium. That will be the first taste we get of the "new" team for this coming season. Without Juan Pablo Carrizo, Ernesto Farias, and Victor Zapata (as well as some subs such as Diego Galvan, Rubens Sambueza, Matias Oyola), yet with only a few reinforcements, things don't seem to have changed positively since the end of the Torneo Clausura. The only way we can change our current situation is by refreshing the airs and starting all over again, forgetting about the past. The trophy will be there, waiting for a new champion to lift it in December. The question is, will it be our turn to take it once and for all?

New Incorporations: Rolando Zarate and Nico Sanchez?

River Plate have officially announced the arrival of Rolando "Roly" Zarate, on loan for one year with a buying clause of $1,000,000. Although he is yet to pass the medical exams, he is pretty much with one foot in the Monumental. Now, "is this good or bad?", you may be asking. It all depends on the way you look at it: Rolando, brother of U-20 World Cup champion Mauro Zarate, has had a fantastic career, having won two Argentine titles with Velez as well as being the top goalscorer of the 2004 Clausura, and the runner-up of the 2004 Aperutra. Besides those accomplishments, Zarate has even managed to play a few matches for Real Madrid and the Argentine National Team.

Although it may sound as if we managed to make the incorporation of the year, el "Roly" hasn't been doing well as of late. In the last two years, he has been cursed with poor football and endless injuries. In fact, he only managed to score one goal in seventeen games in his last season in the Mexican league! Not only that, but his injuries have caused him to step aside for large parts of the season and not play (his last game was over 140 days ago). Either way, he is only 28 years old and has enough time to revert the situation and return to his oldself again. I wouldn't say he was the player I was waiting for us to bring in, but we could really use the old Zarate (if he ever does return).

Besides Sixto Peralta and Rolando Zarate, River are close to incorporating Nicolas Sanchez -a 21 year old central defender who plays for Nueva Chicago. Daniel Passarella has requested two players in that position, one which would be Sanchez and the other either Humberto Mendoza or Ronald Raldes. The Bolivian's (Raldes) arrival would be complicated, while Mendoza would be more accesible. Humberto is a Colombian defender, currently playing for Atletico Nacional, who has made 10 appearances for his National Team. Upon being reminded of Nelson Rivas' short period at River, the 22-year old replied that he is confident that we will have a more successful cycle if he actually does end up arriving.

We may also bring in an 18-year old Chilean foward named Alexis Sanchez. Sanchez may be young, but he isn't just anyone: the youngster is one of the most promising players in South America and already has 2 titles being a starter for Colo Colo. He been a vital part of the U-20 Chilean National Team, and has even played some matches for the top National Team. With speed, precision, and talent, he could be exactly what River is looking for. So where would we get the money to bring in this spectacular player? Well, that's the tricky part. Although there are some good chances of having him join the squad, he wouldn't become an actual River player: he would arrive on loan from Udinese, who are looking to raise his value as well as give him minutes to grow. Although nothing is confirmed yet, Sanchez and his representative have expressed their desire to locate the player in River. In my opinion, this would be the best incorporation we could make this offseason.