It has taken a while but we here at The Lone Star have finally compiled our Campeonato Petrobas 2013 Team of the Season.
It was an exciting season with it being played over only 17 games. At one point there were five teams involved in the title race, leading to a last day finale which saw Unión Española and Universidad Católica go into the final 90 minutes of the season looking to secure the league title.
It was José Luis Sierra’s men who deservedly triumphed and to no surprise his players feature prominently, while surprisingly no Universidad de Chile player made the team.
Diego Sánchez (Unión Española) Goalkeeper
It is testament to the performances of Sánchez that both Cristopher Toselli and Jhonny Herrera had fine Torneo Transicións yet he was voted in as the best goalkeeper of the tournament. He arrived from Unión San Felipe who were relegated at the end of 2012 and had big boots to fill as Eduardo Lobos moved onto Colo Colo. However, he settled in to José Luis Sierra’s preferred style of play with consummate ease to the point where he actually helped increase the quality of the side’s play from the back.
He is an extremely confident goalkeeper with both the ball at his feet and in his hands, which helps with his decision making as he was rapid off his line, preventing opposition strikers time and again. An agile and key member of the squad on and off the pitch as Española finished with the best defensive record and won the championship. A fun goalkeeper to watch.
José Pedro Fuenzalida (Colo Colo) Right-back
JPF easily stood out for Colo Colo. After all he was one of very few players who came out of the tournament for los albos with pass marks. He was used in a number of positions including left-back and right-midfield but he is equally competent at right-back, excelling up and down the right-flank. He is the type of player who is easy to love; boundless energy, unassuming, combative good attitude and a very good football player to boot.
When played at right-back he would link well with Gonzalo Fierro or try to help out whoever was positioned in front of him. He was a constant attacking threat, scoring four goals. Defensively few players could over power or out manoeuvre him.
Matías Navarette & Jorge Ampuero (Unión Española) Centre-backs
I think it is only right to write about these two as a pair. They played a vital part, along with Sánchez, in keeping nine clean sheets. Española were revered for their expansive approach, pushing high up the park and looking to outplay the opposition. This strategy meant that la furia roja were prone to being open at the back. But Navarette and Ampuero combined to thwart attacking advances through a combination of intelligent reading of the game, pace and last ditch interceptions and tackles.
Ampuero struggled prior to the start of the tournament and was in and out of the team last season. But he emerged into a dominant force, cutting out the slackness which had blighted his career at Española. The importance of his presence in and around the squad was highlighted when he took over captaincy when Gonzalo Villagra fell to injury.
Navarette was one of the young revelations of the season. He had featured in 2012 but after the departure of Rafael Olarra he was given his chance by Sierra and took it. He is quick across the turf despite his size and his reading of defensive situations belies his 21 years of age. If he continues on the right path he will be a future internationalist.
Nicolás Berardo (Unión Española) Left-back
The rangy left-back was another of Española’s star defensive performers. He often looks ungainly but he proved a key component on both sides of Sierra’s game plan. He was a more familiar sight in the opposition’s half as he was in his own, such is the way the team played.
Patricio Rubio was often stationed in front of him and would look to move inside closer to goal to open up space for the Argentine to cross for Gustavo Canales, Rubio and Sebastián Jaime.
He was another that had some cagey moments in his Española career but 2013 seemed to indicate a turning point as he put in solid performance after solid performance. Like Fuenzalida on the other side he was very rarely turned inside out by an opposition forward or winger.
A special mention goes to youngster Mario Larenas who has received interest from Roma who was excellent when he replaced Berardo.
Diego Scotti (Unión Española) Midfield
Arguably the player of the season and, unsurprisingly, the heart of all good things for Unión Española. See him up close and he does look the 36 years of age his berth certificate states. But if you had watched him this past season you’d want to check that certificate again and then again just to be sure.
He, alongside Gonzalo Villagra, was the heartbeat and pulse of the side all rolled into one for la furia roja. While Villagra was the steady influence, and captain, Scotti was more anarchic yet, pardon the paradox completely controlled. He would start moves from the back, keep moves flowing in midfield and finish moves off in attack – three goals in 13.
He covered an obscene amount of yards with his long strides and was forever breaking forward to add yet another body to the Española attack. He also possesses a physical presence with a tenacious side to him which makes him an intimidating character. But one which can play, seldom losing possession.
An injury ruled him out for a period towards the end and it was of little shock to anyone that Sierra’s men went through their toughest period at that time.
Juan Rodrigo Rojas (O’Higgins) Midfield
Probably Scotti’s contender for player of the season. The Paraguayan impressed so much that Universidad de Chile were quick to snap him up.
The departure of Ramón Fernández to La U at the start of the year meant an important position of Eduardo Berizzo’s 4-2-1-3 formation needed filling. Despite the signing of Lucas Acosta, Berizzo simply moved Rojas forward to a position he thrived.
O’Higgins ran out of steam at the end of the campaign but Rojas continued to play an eminent role as the side’s number 10. He doesn’t quite have Fernández’s creativity but he was a dynamic presence who gave the team a little bit more solidity and was always involved in O’Higgins’ best moments.
Fernando Meneses (Universidad Católica) Midfield
It has been an interesting past 18 months or so for the stocky Chilean winger. He was a key player for UC in 2011 but then looked for a move to rivals Universidad de Chile at the start of 2012. When a deal was not struck he pitched up in Peru at Alianza Lima. However little action saw him return to the Estadio San Carlos in the second half of 2012 but he was unable to find the form which prompted him to pine for a move to a ‘bigger’ team.
Yet any doubts about the 27-year-old Chilean international were quickly dispelled this year with excellent performances for Católica as they finished second in the league and Copa Chile.
He started the season playing on the right of a midfield four in a 3-4-1-2 and was a constant menace for opposition full-backs. So much so that teams got little chance to attack UC down his side.
His best performance game in a 4-0 demolition of Unión La Calera in week five where he demonstrated all his qualities. He claimed a trio of assists, owing to his pace, power and directness. He can power past players or deceive defenders with a trick.
Católica were the second highest scorers with Carlos Bueno and Ismael Sosa enjoying reasonable records in front of goal and much can be owed to the quality of supply from the right.
Patricio Rubio (Unión Española) Forward
Rubio has seamlessly progressed into top-level football having been a third division footballer in Argentina in recent years. He continued his fine form from the end of 2012 into 2013 as the club’s central striker.
A stocky figure who can play with his back to goal outside the box and is predatory inside the box. The arrival of Gustavo Canales signalled a change of position to left of a front three as José Luis Sierra looked to keep a key player in his starting eleven.
While his attacking threat may have slightly diminished – scoring three goals from wide left compared to the five he scored prior to Canales taking up the focal point responsibility – he proved to be an excellent support forward for Canales, constantly moving inside to a central position; ideal for crosses coming in from the right.
It also allowed Nicolás Berardo, Mario Larenas or whoever was playing at left-back to play high up the pitch without getting in the way of each other.
Sebastián Pol (Cobreloa) Forward
The top three goal scorers in the Primera División during the first half of 2013 were all born in Argentina, and Pol is the first of two who have made it into the team of the season.
Under the enigmatic manager Marco Antonio Figueroa Cobreloa were a thrilling team to watch as they harnessed many of the qualities seen in Marcelo Bielsa’s and Jorge Sampaioli’s teams.
At the forefront of the zorros del desierto’s success as they qualified for this year’s Copa Sudamericana was the tireless work rate and clinical finishing of Pol who epitomised the work-rate required by Figueroa.
He does not appear to the strongest or quickest, and he is not the most technically gifted in the team but he works all across the front line, putting him in a prime position to pounce on mistakes from defenders. Add the three Copa Chile games in 2013 he scored 15 goals in 20 games.
His form has seen him heavily linked with a move to Universidad Católica.
Sebastián Sáez (Audax Italiano) Forward
The final addition to our team of the season is the Argentine who topped the scoring charts alongside Antofagasta’s Javier Elizondo with 14.
Audax Italiano had a poor season, resulting in Luis Marini not having his contract renewed but at the tip of their play has been a shining light in the bald-headed shape of 28-year-old Sáez.
He plays as a lone striker and does it very competently offering an all-round presence with a serious goal threat. He scored in nine of his 17 games highlighting his consistency. But his crowning moment came in back to back games against Colo Colo and Unión La Calera where he rifled in consecutive hat-tricks.
The triplet against Colo Colo earned Audax all three points while against La Calera they could only come away with a point, but you would be hard-pushed to find a better set of goals in one game from the single player.
Elizondo could have made the team due to his quartet of goals against Universidad de Chile alone but Sáez has been a constant goal threat in the league, going beyond the past season.