BY ANSELM NORONHA Follow @apnoronha on twitter
Sporting Clube de Goa
Last season's performance: (Finished Sixth) - Sporting Clube de Goa didn't start the last season on a good note and mid-way through the season, at one stage, were also battling their way out of the relegation zone - their worst standing being recorded as 13th at the end of round 12. It was Oscar Bruzon Barreras who led the team to put in consistent performances in the second half of the season which helped them finish sixth on the table. Following the change of personnel in the winter transfer window, they looked a transformed outfit from the one which was finding it difficult to get results in their favour.
Their best moment was when they went on a seven game unbeaten streak which was finally ended by Mohun Bagan with a 5-1 win in April.
| THE COACH
The Spaniard's connection with the club started around a year before he was appointed as the head coach, when he visited India in 2011 and trained with the squad in order to keep his fitness levels up.
Soibam Ekendra Singh was made the goalkeeper coach after the side lost to Air India following which Bruzon was appointed as the head coach.
In his seven-year professional playing career, the 36-year-old plied his trade in the Spanish second division and began coaching the U-16 team of Areosa CF and also worked with the U-14 boys of his hometown club Celta de Vigo.
| TRANSFER DEALINGS
TRANSFERS IN: The Goans managed to hold on to the core of their team and also strengthened their squad with the signings of defender Deepak Devrani, goalkeeper Ravi Kumar (both from Pailan Arrows), striker Beevan D'Mello and midfielder Cajetan Fernandes (both from Salgaocar FC).
Boima 'Jerry' Karpeh was roped in after his impressive performances for Pune FC in the second half of the season while they made a couple of Spanish signings in midfielder Arturo Navarro García and center-back Gonzalo Hinojal Neila. Navarro, a former Valencia player, won the championship with the youth team and also made his debut for Los Che in a Copa Del Rey tie. The midfielder was in the Europa League squad of Valencia in the 2009-10 season. Gonzalo has been playing in the Spanish second division since 2007 and last appeared for Zamora CF.
|Sporting have confessed to using a Spanish model this season|
They also signed striker Mauvin Borges from Sesa Football Academy. Bruzon praised the youngster's qualities and stated, "We were following him (Mauvin) last season playing with Sesa. This guy was playing very good. He is 19 years old now, playing most of the games in the Goa League [for Sporting] and I think he can be ready for the line-up in the I-League as well," he said.
TRANSFERS OUT: Sporting Clube de Goa have retained only one foreigner from the last season in Ogba Kalu Nnanna while Japanese striker Seiya Sugishita and the Spanish duo of Juan Pena and Angel Berlanga saw their contracts not being extended.
Amongst others, defender Samananda Singh and goalkeeper Ashok Singh joined Mumbai Tigers and Mohammedan Sporting respectively. Their biggest loss was that of Adil Khan choosing to ply his trade for Mohun Bagan in the 2013-14 season.
|FORMATION AND TACTICS
Sporting Goa play an attacking brand of football with an emphasis to keep the ball on the ground. Gonzalo Neila and Deepak Devrani are expected to man the defense, with Kalu forming the heart of the midfield in whichever formation Bruzon chooses to adopt on a given match day. Boima Karpeh will be the lone striker upfront.
Mathew Gonsalves and Joyner Loyrenco will provide the width along with the likes of Prathesh Shirodkar and Jovel Martins, who remains a doubtful starter given that his case is ongoing with the Players' Status Committee of the All India Football Federation (AIFF).
"If you ask me about the formation, I would say that a 4-3-2-1 [for] defending and a 4-1-4-1 [for] attacking, are the models we want to work with. And then also when Victorino [Fernandes] comes up, I like to play a 4-4-2, but then it depends on the type of game that we want to play," commented the coach.
"I have a batch of 17 or 18 players, I can say, who can perfectly compete for a position in the first team. Most of the others also are young, but they have a lot of capability to improve. I want Ravi and Melroy [Fernandes] to compete for the position in the goal," he continued.
"All our work is based on intensity, effort, performance, reason and speed. Once we got all that in place, we want to work in a football model that includes 70-to-80 percent of combinative football. If we work with the physical aspect as well, I think we can become a very strong team."
Man to Watch - Boima 'Jerry' Karpeh
The Liberian-born Australian striker scored six goals in seven appearances for Pune FC last season, which included a brace on his debut against Shillong Lajong FC.
"This season, I'm really surprised with the performance of Jerry," revealed Bruzon. "I'm impressed with his committment with the team, his work rate and willingness to improve. He has a lot of goals [in the Goa League] and I am expecting to see him perform in the I-League. Depending on how we want to play, he can play like a striker and as an offensive midfielder."
| SEASON'S TARGET
With the batch of players who have gelled well so far, Sporting Clube de Goa have the capability of finishing in the top five this season. Given their squad's strength and without many injuries, the club's form in the Goa League - in which they are currently second - is a clear indication of things to come.
"The objective is to finish in the top half and in the top five. Everything within the top five is a very good position for us, and everything that is from six - like seven, eight, nine - is not a very good result," the Sporting gaffer concluded. It remains to be seen how they perform on the big stage and whether Oscar Bruzon Barreras can continue his good work from the last term.
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