Angel Cappa has gone back to teh future to create his current Huracan side.
By Eric Weil in Buenos Aires
When Huracan president Carlos Babington – the former World Cup midfielder they call “El Ingles” (the Englishman) because of his ancestry – hired Angel Cappa as coach earlier this year, there were complaints that Cappa was an old-timer with outdated ideas.
In many ways, though not those envisaged by his critics, Cappa has proved to be just that: an “old-timer” with a team playing football from another era.
Cappa had been assistant to Cesar Menotti at Boca Juniors and Atletico Madrid, and later coached several clubs before being out of the game for some time.
At Huracan he took over a bunch of youngsters and rejects from other clubs – with an average age of 23 – and made them play the Menotti-style football he loved.
The Huracan teams has, at times, reminded older fans of the 1973 champions, still thought of as the best team of modern times and whose football propelled its coach, Cesar Menotti, to the national team and the 1978 World Cup.
With five matches to go in the 2008-09 closing championship, Huracan were third, two points behind leaders Lanus, another team standing out for their youth and good play. The statistics do not lie. Huracan have created the most scoring opportunities and scored the highest number of goals. But their emphasis on all-out attack means that they often defend with too few players.
Huracan are a team without stars, but the youngest, attacking midfielder Javier Pastore, aged 19, is fast becoming one.
Cappa says: “This team has not reached its full potential yet. I love to teach players, but there is hardly any time under the present system of two short championships and every six months you have to construct a new team.”
And Cappa has another problem, common to most Argentinian clubs. Many of the players’ contracts are owned largely by investors – a method used by cash-strapped clubs to get new players – and he is trying to convince these investors – who make their profit by moving players around – to let then stay at the club a little longer.
It has been a topsy-turvy championships, with erratic performances by many clubs and others fielding weak teams while engaged in mid-week cup games.
One of the biggest surprises came in the 14th round when Gimnasia y Esgrima de La Plata, heading for relegation, easily beat Velez Sarsfield 3-1 to spoil their unbeaten record and knock them off the top of the table.
Boca Juniors, concentrating on winning the Libertadores Cup and fielding many reserves in the league, went winless for seven games. They missed injured playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme, but managed to end the winless streak when he returned, though they are 16th in the 20-team table.
There have been successful coaching changes at some clubs. Alejandro Sabella, once of Sheffield United and Leeds United, took over slumping Estudiantes de La Plata during the closing tournament with no previous head coach experience. They have been unbeaten in 13 matches since then, including the Libertadores Cup, where they have reached the quarter-finals.
Since Diego Simeone – one of eight coaching chances during the closing tournament – took over at slumping San Lorenzo, they went unbeaten in five matches. He was quick to introduce his diet of fruit and juices during training.
Racing Club have just ended a seven-match unbeaten run under new coach Caruso Lombardi which took them out of the relegation zone, but not to safety yet. But Avellaneda rivals Independiente continue their slump under new coach Americo Gallego. They still need cash to finish their new stadium and cannot afford expensive reinforcements.
Leading title winners River Plate just cannot hit it off and are seventh. The latest rumour is that they want Cappa as coach next season.