Aventuras Américas | Part 2 | Puerto Montt #1: Bienvenido a Chile

Our North and South American adventure is now underway and begins in Chile. If you missed the first part of the series, which introduces the objectives of the save and our main protagonist, then you can catch up here.

Roberto Nascimento da Silva Lazaró – we’ll stick with Robinho Lazaró – stepped off the Latam Airlines aeroplane onto the runway at El Tepual Airport and soaked up the mild Chilean sun. As a Colombian Brazilian, it wasn’t nearly hot enough for him, but he enjoyed the brisk wind that immediately woke him from his flight-induced slumber.

Lazaró spotted a group of men in dark glasses and immediately recognised two of them as being his new President German Mayorga and Managing Director Alexis Rojas, who he’d spoken to a couple of times over Zoom in the last few days.

The unemployed 37-year-old was giddy with excitement at being offered his first job in football by Chilean side Deportes Puerto Montt. In the space of a few days, he’d gone from earning absolutely nothing and bumming around on the streets of Medellín to signing a one-year deal worth £500-a-week and moving to Chile.

Who are Deportes Puerto Montt?

Mayorga and Rojas met their new manager as he stepped onto Chilean soil for the first time and greeted him warm handshakes and huge smiles underneath their sizeable moustaches. “Note to self: must give this moustache growing a go,” Lazaró though to himself.

The two Chileans walk Lazaró across the runway to the President’s rather salubrious-looking Mercedes, he climbed in and was thankful for the slightly warm air blasting through the vehicle. But there was no time for relaxing, as he was immediately introduced to his press officer Francisca Durán, who was eagerly awaiting with a PowerPoint presentation to introduce her new boss to Puerto Montt…

Deportes Puerto Montt is a professional football club founded in 1983, which competes in the second-tier Chilean First Division B. The club is based in the town of Puerto Montt, which is in the Los Lagos Region in southern Chile, some 1,055 kilometres south of Santiago. The city became famous for being the world’s second-largest salmon producer through the 1990s and 2000s, but a national aquaculture crisis put pay to that and wreaked havoc on the local economy.

The club has won one Chilean First Division B title, back in 2002, and one third-tier Chilean Second Division title in 2014. It has no fierce rivalries but does compete in the Sur Derby with local rival Provincial Osorno, along with another local rival Deportes Valdivia. It plays at the 10,000 capacity Regional de Chinquihe stadium, which was built in 1981, and has basic youth recruitment and youth facilities and below-average training facilities.

Lazaró’s first employers want him to sign players aged under 23 and want a mid-table finish. That seemed realistic considering the club was currently 11th after 18 of their 30-match season, seven points clear of relegation and four points away from the playoffs. However, a very worrying sign was the club finances, as the bank balance was £538,879 in the red. Despite that, Lazaró’s first inbox message was about an exciting-sounding youth intake that included at least a good goalkeeper, striker and full-back.

Meeting the Puerto Montt squad

An enjoyable 30-minute drive ended with the Mercedes pulling into the car park at Regional de Chinquihe stadium which, honestly, was so beautiful that Lazaró was already in love with his new home. Just look at it!

The new manager was escorted through the stadium and onto the pitch, where he noticed a group of 20 or so young chaps waiting nervously to meet him. Two of the men stepped forward and introduced themselves as captain Diego Opazo, who’s a defender, and vice-captain Nicolás Gauna, who’s a left-winger.

The duo took it upon themselves to introduce Lazaró to the rest of their teammates, which the manager thought was a nice touch. Their first port of call was supposed star striker Flavio Ciampichetti, who was widely considered the most gifted player at the club but Lazaró noted hadn’t scored in five appearances for the club. Lurking behind the striker were two more highly-rated players 5ft 6in attacking midfielder Brayan Valdivia and midfielder Eduardo Vilches. Alongside them were fellow Chileans in defender Flavio Rojas and goalkeeper Claudio González.

Lazaró noted that none of the players he’d been introduced to were under the age of 27 but had been assured by Francisca that there were some young talents at the club. It was then that his attention was drawn to two young chaps hiding behind the bigger boys and asked to be introduced to them. They were star prospect 17-year-old defender Francisco Calisto and 18-year-old left-back Harold Antinirre.

Away from the playing squad, there was minimal staff as Lazaró was without an assistant manager, head of youth development and any resemblance of scouting, analysis and sports science teams. So he sent out some job adverts and added some total randoms, including a pretty fantastic 83-year-old Argentinian head of youth development!

Straight into the thick of it

Robinho Lazaró’s first match as a football manager took place on Friday, 13 August 2021, just two days after he’d been hired! He’d barely had time to assess his playing squad, certainly hadn’t a chance to design let alone run a training session, and hadn’t even thought about a tactic yet. That wasn’t helped by his first game was a mere 2,800-mile round trip to fellow mid-table but first in the form table Deportes Copiapó, who were two places and two points above their visitors in the catchily named Campeonato Juegaenlinea.com league (I got the name fix to work!).

Having very briefly assessed the resources available to him, Lazaró realised there was a distinct lack of central midfielders and their best player was an attacking midfielder. With that in mind, he decided to trial a fairly basic 4-4-1-1 formation in his very first football match.

The first match started very nicely as Puerto Montt won a penalty that Ciampichetti tucked away after seven minutes. The defensive approach worked a treat as they limited the hosts to barely anything and Vilches curled home a delicious second late on. A winning start in the first match of Aventuras Américas and Robinho Lazaró’s career! That was followed by a mere 2,000-mile round trip to face second in the form table Coquimbo Unido, where two long-range strikes resulted in the manager’s first defeat despite his side having more shots, which mildly pleased him.

The good people of Puerto Montt finally got their first sight of their exciting new Colombian / Brazilian manager as Robinho Lazaró was unveiled on the pitch of Regional de Chinquihe ahead of his first home game against 13th-place Unión San Felipe. The manager, resplendent in his brand spanking new blue suit, urged his players to put on a show for their expectant fans. They didn’t in the first half as they managed just one shot! But that man Vilches delivered after the break, laying on the opener for Rojas then scoring another long-ranger to sneak a 2-1 win that sent the fans home raving about Lazaró’s tactics.

Lazaró was pleased with his strong start, but then discovered an intriguing rule that demands under 21 players must take part n 70% of teams’ 30 games. And failure to do so can result in a six-point penalty and a fine. His side was only at 39% with nine games remaining, so he decided he had to put some focus on youth.

With a few more youngsters in the side Puerto Montt welcomed bottom-of-the-league Universidad de Concepción to town. They were highly wasteful in a 0-0 draw but left-back Antinerre impressed in his first game. He was also excellent as the defence kept another clean sheet to win 1-0 at fellow mid-table side Santiago Morning, which was decided by a Ciampichetti penalty. But a first home defeat followed against in-form Rangers de Talca, who scored three long-range goals. They also got battered 3-0 at promotion-chasing Deportes Iquique.

In danger of a relegation battle?

The lack of goals continued with a 0-0 at home to Deportes Santa Cruz, which saw Puerto Montt five points clear of relegation with four games to go. That prompted the manager to switch to a 4-3-1-2, which worked nicely at struggling Deportivo Magallanes as they won 2-0 with goals from both strikers. And that removed the threat of relegation.

The season rounded off with Vilches scoring a blinding free-kick in a 1-1 draw at home to Fernández Vial before a 2-0 defeat at third-place Cobreloa.

That meant Puerto Montt finished the campaign in 12th place, seven points clear of relegation on 37 points. However, just look at all those points deductions for breaking the under 21 matchday rules!

Robinho Lazaró had settled the ship in the first few months of his managerial career. In his 12 games, he’d won four, drawn three and lost five with a goal difference of minus five! But there was plenty of work ahead over the winter before his second season in charge at Puerto Montt as a mass of players who weren’t good enough were out of contract.

Join us next time as fledgling manager Robinho Lazaró faces a sizeable rebuild in his first-ever transfer window as a football manager!

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