BRIAN SCIARETTA - Tuesday, March 8, 2011
With the season now underway in the Premier Division in Peru, one player who is aiming to have a breakout season is American winger Diego Chavarri who plays with Sporting Cristal.
Chavarri, 21, joined Sporting Cristal in 2009, but this year he is being called on by new coach Guillermo Rivarola to be a key player on the northern Lima based club which historically is one of the biggest and most powerful clubs in Peru.
In his first season with Sporting Cristal in 2009, Chavarri appeared in four games with two starts. In 2010, he appeared in six games - all as a substitute. In 2011, he expects to be a regular.
"I have been with the professional team since 2009, but this year I am playing more," Chavarri told YA from Lima. "I think this year will be different. I am having more opportunities and I am taking them well by playing and scoring. I think I will play all this year."
Chavarri attributes his increased role with the team to Rivarola who signed on to being Sporting Cristal's coach in December after previously managing Mexican club CF Pachuca.
Chavarri is confident that Rivarola has the team moving in the right direction. Last season, Sporting Cristal finished in seventh place, but this year he believes that the team can contend for its first title since 2005.
"I think this year and with our new coach things are different," Chavarri discussed. "[Coach Rivarola] a very good coach and the players like him. I think we can get the championship."
Chavarri has rewarded Rivarola's trust in him in dramatic fashion in the third week of the season when Sporting Cristal hosted arch-rival and Alianza Lima.
In the 34th minute, Chavarri collected the ball on the left side in his own half of the field before putting together a run which culminated with dribbling past four defenders, a cut-back in the box and an off-footed laser into the top corner past Alianza Lima keeper Salomon Libman.
Later in the game against Lima, Chavarri picked up a red card for a skirmish with an opposing player and the game finished with both sides reduced to 10 players and the score tied 1-1. Despite the red card, Chavarri still considers the goal to be a high point of his young career.
"It was the most amazing moment of my life," Chavarri excitedly recalled. "I don't really have words to describe it and I am very happy. I received the ball from my goalkeeper in my own half of the field. No one was following my run so I only had Alianza Lima players in front of me. I kept going. I took on three defenders then I shot [from just inside the box] and scored. It was my first professional goal."
"The red card was very difficult for me," Chavarri added. "Because, I had a good game and I scored. That can help me continue playing every game and that is what every player wants - to play. Afterward [Coach Rivarola] told me that there were more good things I did than bad things and that I have to feel good with my game."
Chavarri has been a welcome addition to Rivarola's system in large part to his versatility to play the wing position on either the left or right side.
"I play in the midfield but I like to play [wide]," Chavarri described. "Sometimes I play on the left side, sometimes I play on the right side. For me it's the same. I don't have a favorite."
Chavarri was born in the borough of Queens in New York City to Peruvian parents. He did not live there very long as his parents returned to their homeland when he was a young. Still, Chavarri is proud of the fact that his bond to his birth country is strong and he returns to the United States whenever possible.
"I stayed [in the US] only a short time because my parents are from Peru," Chavarri pointed out. "But I travel back to the USA whenever I can. If I have a vacation, I visit there to see family or just to travel."
So strong are his ties to the US is that prior to his time at Cristal, Chavarri was interested in trying to begin his career in MLS but he did not have contacts at the time to arrange a trial and a contract at Cristal was available.
Chavarri is open to the idea of playing in the MLS in the future but for now he is focused on leading Sporting Cristal. He also holds out hope that continued success could catch the eye of US head coach Bob Bradley for the national team or Olympic team for which he is eligible for in 2012.
"I would like to play for the United States national team," Chavarri concluded. "It is my national soccer team. Maybe they don't I know I am an American down here. I just have to keep training and playing well."
After serving his suspension this past weekend in the club's 2-1 loss to Alianza Atletico, Chavarri will hope to return to the lineup for Sporting Cristal next weekend where they host newly promoted Union Comercio.