Aucas – the inside story (Part 2)

I was recently in Ecuador, South America, to spend time with a team called Sociedad Deportiva Aucas. It is a club that has fallen from grace in the last 10 years and now lies in the third tier of the league system.

In Part 2 of ‘the inside story’ the club makes a major signing and pre-season training gets underway.

Jaime Ivan Kaviedes is one of the most famous footballers in Ecuador. Over the course of a career stretching back to 1995, he has played in Italy, Spain, England, Argentina, Mexico and Ecuador. He scored the crucial goal in a 2001 qualifier against Uruguay, which allowed Ecuador to qualify for their first ever World Cup, and is still well remembered for an overhead kick goal against Barcelona that was voted goal of the Spanish season for 2000 / 2001. He went to both the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, and is generally recognised as a star of the Ecuadorian game.

His life has not been without drama, and it is widely known that he has battled a drug problem for many years. Now he is off the drugs and the drink, and living a much healthier lifestyle. Even so, there are those that say he is unreliable, bad for team morale, and past his best. Despite this he is still a big media attraction and loved by his adoring fans, and Aucas decided that is was worthwhile taking a punt on a potentially disruptive figure. They signed him and were immediately the talk of the town; at his first training session in La Carolina park about 300 fans turned up in the hope of catching a glimpse of their hero. They were not alone either, as every TV and radio station reporter was also there, eager to get some words from ‘El Nine’.

His team mates were shocked at the attention suddenly thrust upon them (normally only a few spectators show up to watch training) and many of the younger players were in awe of playing with their idol. Some of the older heads like Gustavo Figueroa, Omar de Jesus, and Wellington Sanchez gave him a warm welcome to the club; they had played together previously for the national team, and were able to take the media focus in their stride.

The session began, eventually, but only after the coaching staff had asked the spectators and members of the press to move back to allow them an area in which to train. Obviously all eyes were on Kaviedes, and he made a few jokes with his new team mates to lighten the atmosphere. They seemed even more nervous than he did, as no-one wanted to be seen making mistakes in front of the media. Small talk and banter quickly settled the group into a positive working environment, and a possession game developed nicely. Five or six players formed a circle with one player trying to win the ball back in the centre. Deft touches, back heels, and plenty of flair were on show, and players, coaching staff, spectators, and journalists all thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

As the session came to its conclusion there was a media scramble to grab a quick interview with the new ‘star man’, combined with a wave of rushing spectators all wanting an autograph and photo with their idol. The rest of the players were left to drink from their water bottles and stand watching the show. Everything had begun well, spirits were high, and there was a definite air of optimism surrounding SD Aucas.

Pre-season form was encouraging, with several wins over higher placed teams, including a victory against arch rivals Liga de Quito. The occasion was even more special considering that it took place at Liga’s training facilities, and was watched by a crowd of several hundred. Liga’s president declared that the 1st division missed the presence of a great team like Aucas, and that he sincerely hoped that they could make a swift return to top division action.

The squad was very large, with about 34 players attending each training session. However, a lot of these were preparing to be loaned out to other clubs, especially the younger players who had little match experience and still needed to develop many attributes. One by one the transfers were arranged, and by the start of the season the squad was down to about 20, which was a manageable size and allowed for injuries and suspensions to occur without decimating the team. A preferred starting eleven was taking shape, as was the formation that Jose Moreno wanted to use.

4-2-3-1 line up.

* Kaviedes and Omar de Jesus were not included in initial matches due to the fact that they had both joined the club midway through the pre-season phase and were therefore short of match fitness.

The 1st official game of the season arrived and a crowd of around 11,000 turned up to watch ‘El Papa Aucas’ defeat Universidad San Francisco by a scoreline of 2-0. A carnival atmosphere was provided by the fans, who certainly played their part with plenty of noise, colour, and encouragement, and it was a satisfactory opening to the season. Plenty of work was still required to get the team playing the type of flowing football craved by the coaching staff, but there were encouraging signs of progress and fitness levels were increasing.

10 games into the season and Aucas were in pole position after achieving a perfect 30 points from a possible 30. No doubt existed about whether the team would qualify for the next phase of competition, but there were concerns about the style of play and how the team had struggled in certain matches to get past significantly weaker opposition. Various changes were made to both personnel and formations during this period to try and find a solution, but nothing seemed to gel as desired. Nevertheless, the team was on track and morale remained high; the plan now was to maintain a winning attitude and continue working on attacking fluidity. The push for promotion was underway and nothing was going to stop this team from getting to La B.

…The story continues in Part 3…

Frustrated Coach