Fledgling Colombian / Brazilian manager Robinho Lazaró had enjoyed a surprisingly good first full season as a manager with Deportes Puerto Montt. His side performed well above expectations to reach the semi-final of the promotion playoffs.
The new season began with 41-year-old midfielder Gonzalo Villagra, who was excellent in his final season as a player, retiring and becoming an under 21s coach at the club. Sticking with the coaching admin, Lazaró also began his second coaching course, the National B Licence. He’d also seen a nice little boost in his coaching attributes, which began with a bunch of ones and twos.
Another off-season rebuild
A mass of players left the club again during the summer (which runs from December to February in this part of the world). That included striker Arnaldo Castillo deciding to join promoted Rangers, which was probably fair enough, and underperforming left-back Camilo Saldana moving to the league below. However, Lazaró was forced into selling two key defenders Flavio Rojas and Diego Opazo to top-tier side Audax Italiano and San Luis for a profit of around £40,000.
Five new signings arrived – all free transfers, of course – as the transfer window opened on 1 January 2023. The pick of the bunch was exciting Argentinian midfielder Franco Burgos along with a new goalkeeper in Eduardo Miranda, who came in from Deportas Limache. A few days later, a new striker arrived in Mexican José de Jésus Godínez, who isn’t the best finisher but did score four in 10 for Tapatío last season. And he was soon joined by exciting Argentinian striker Santiago Patroni, who Lazaró took a bit of a gamble on purely because he was at Boca Juniors, but the risk has probably paid off.
But probably the best signing of the window was another Mexican – that’s three at the club now – in Alfonso Sánchez, who joined on a free from Club América. He played 28 games in Liga MX last season and surely offers a significant step up in quality. Lazaró also loaned in defensive cover in exciting Sebastián Pino from Universidad Católica and Mauro Maureira from Unión Espanola. Lazaró also invested in youth by snapping up a mass of exciting young talents, which included Rodrigo Barbosa and the brilliantly named midfielder Rui Rei and a couple of Chileans in striker Francisco Rivera and 16-year-old defender David Cerda.
Puerto Montt’s preparations seriously harmed by winger Nicolás Gauna damaging his Achilles just before the start of the season, which ruled him out for up to five months. With that in mind, Lazaró devised a new 4-3-1-2 tactic in addition to last season’s slightly tweaked asymmetric approach.
Second full season begins
Despite last year’s overachievement, the media still only expect Puerto Montt to finish 11th in Campeonato Juegaenlinea.com, at 20/1 to win the league. The overwhelming favourites for the title are O’Higgins, who were relegated from the top tier last season, at 1/10, followed by Coquimbo (5/2), Santiago Wanderers (4/1) and Cobresal (6/1).
Lazaró’s second full season as a manager began at home to newly-promoted Colchagua. The new formation got its first outing and started well as Godínez bagged a debut brace after midfielder Eduardo Vilches had opened the scoring to seal a 3-1 win. Three more new signings endeared themselves to their new supporters as Pino, Sánchez and Patroni, who went on to bag a hat-trick, all scored their first goals in a stunning 5-0 win at Melipilla despite having fewer shots than the hosts.
The bright start continued with a 2-1 win at home to relegated Cobresal, who’d also won their first two games, thanks to a Godínez and a screamer by midfielder Yeiko Cartagena. Then they were unlucky to only draw 0-0 at Coquimbo but hammered Deportes Copiapó 3-0 with a Pino double, won 2-1 at San Marcos de Africa courtesy of a bizarre own-goal opener and 1-0 at home to Fernández Vial 1-0 thanks to a Patroni first-half goal. A stunning start to the season took Puerto Montt top of the league with six wins and a draw.
The run extended as they battered Deportes Iquique with 30 shots to eight but had to come from behind to win 2-1 with Godínez and Vilches strikes. The attacking prowess continued at relegated O’Higgins, who’d only gained three points, as they drew 2-2 against a much stronger side. That teed up a surprise top vs. bottom clash as Puerto Montt entertained Santiago Wanderers, which brought about a first defeat of the season with a 2-1 loss. But they bounced back nicely to win 1-0 at home to AC Barnachea and 2-0 at Santiago Morning.
A surprisingly good start to the campaign saw the Puerto Montt board display a stronger show of trust in their manager by handing Lazaró a new two-year contract worth £600-per-week. And los chicos celebrated the new deal with a third successive win without conceding, 1-0 at Unión San Felipe.
They kicked on a gear with a 3-1 win over Deportes Megallenes, who were given two penalties!, thanks to a Patroni brace. Then a first goal for the club for Burgos nicked a 1-0 win at Deportes Santa Cruz.
That took Puerto Montt to the top of the league at the halfway mark of Lazaró’s second season in Chile. After 15 games, they’ve only lost once and have won an impressive 12, scoring a join-league high 29 and conceding a join-league low of nine. However, they’re exactly tied on points, records, goals scored and conceded with Fernández Vial! While title favourites O’Higgins are way down in 12th. Vilches, Pino and Godínez lead the league in average ratings, with Vilches on an impressive 7.70.
Join us next time as Robinho Lazaró hopes to continue the good form at Deportes Puerto Montt and potentially challenge for the title and promotion from the Chilean second tier!