Tonight, San Lorenzo begins its campaign to stay in Argentina's Primera A visiting "La Fortaleza" of Club Atlético Lanús (pronounced La-noo by locals), a team to the south of Buenos Aires. The match gets underway at 9:15pm.
In the Torneo Apertura 2011, Lanús finished 6th with 29 points; 10 more than 17th placed San Lorenzo. They are also playing in the Libertadores 2012, finishing the 3rd best Argentine team in 2011 (clausura and apertura combined) behind Boca Juniors and Vélez Sarsfield. A tough opponent to start a do-or-go to the "B" campaign for the Cuervos de Boedo.
I've never been to Lanús, it is always an adventure going to somewhere 'new' in the city. I'll be travelling with organized buses (micros), so hopefully I wont end up lost. My ignorance of Lanús extends onto the local hinchada; I have very few expectations - positive or negative - for the reception by the Granates (the Maroons) of Lanús. I know that their 'clásico' is with nearby Banfield and that while not considered a 'grande' Lanús is a fairly consistent and well supported team. Moreover, any chance to defeat one of the 'grandes' of Argentine football and send them further down the promoción is an opportunity relished by every hincha.
San Lorenzo has had a less than compelling summer-break. No wins and only a few goals in the summer friendlies have made a dark situation worse; one life-time hincha today told me he cannot bare to watch the match on television, let alone be in the stadium. His heart cannot take the stress. Unable to attract a single of the so-called big-name potentials to the club, reinforcements have been thin: Carlos Bueno, coming from Mendoza, as of today, being the only new Cuervo. There is talk that Cristian Chávez, who has debatable merits, is returning to the Azulgrana after a failed tenure in Napoli, but will definitely not be able to suit up tonight.
Off the pitch financial troubles have been major distractions: delayed payments to Argentinos Junoirs for the services of central midfielder Néstor Ortigoza led to the threat to suspend all transfer activities in-and-out of CASLA. Coverage of the financial troubles reached its pinnacle in the January 31st front-page Olé story, "¡Hasta las pelotas!". Reportedly San Lorenzo couldn't afford enough footballs for its youth teams. Tough times in Bajo Flores.
One bright sign, for me, is the selection of Nereo Champagne as San Lorenzo's starting keeper. Champagne appeared more composed than "El Loco" Migliore in the summer friendlies and was able, with an organized defence, to keep a few clean sheets. While San Lorenzo has to do a lot more than go nil-nil for all of its matches, reducing the stupid goals against does not hurt.
For me, talent is on the team; the question is whether the players' heads and hearts are in the game. The heart of San Lorenzo's supporters, including La Gloriosa Butteler, is unquestionable. Winning and more when losing, the hinchada supports their team. After only a few matches (all loses) in the Nuevo Gasómetro their passion has had its influence on me and I've spent the past few months longing to return.
The scene is set; it is left to see whether the players have the 'huevos' to play in the shadow of Los Matadores and save San Lorenzo from the "B". Tonight my 2012 truly begins.