It’s a battle of unbeatens in Brazil as the Patriotas F.A. of Rio de Janeiro travel to Belo Horizonte to take on Sada Cruzeiro F.A. this Saturday, September 23, in both of the team’s regular season finale of the 2017 BFA Season.
After an injury-riddled 2016 campaign which led to a quarter-final playoff exit, the Patriotas look healthy and renewed in 2017. The national champions of Brazil in 2014 and runners-up in 2015 have been a model of success and consistency in the world of Brazilian American Football. Credit this in large part to the continued leadership of head Coach Gabriel Mendes, who also serves as the head coach of the Brazilian National Team and is widely regarded as one of the best coaches in Brazil.
Facing off against Mendes and the Patriotas will be Sada Cruzeiro F.A., Brazil’s hottest new team led by well-known international American head coach Daniel Levy.
Following an undefeated national championship season in Brazil’s Liga Nacional (2nd Division) in 2016, the then-BH Eagles started their offseason off with a bang by announcing a newly-formed partnership with Cruzeiro Esporte Clube, one of the most renowned athletic organizations in Brazil. What followed was a high-profile spring semester in which Levy and his team aggressively recruited and signed many of Brazil’s top players, earning Sada Cruzeiro F.A. the moniker of Brazil’s Dream Team. And as they close in 500 days without a loss to their name, the upstart team from Belo Horizonte is certainly living up to the hype, and quite possibly changing the model for building a successful American football program in Brazil.
So with Saturday’s matchup on the horizon, we are left with what is arguably the most highly-anticipated American football game in Brazil this season. On the Patriotas’ side, there is a mix of youth, experience, and player chemistry that will be difficult to match by the star-powered but young Cruzeiro squad. Led by their up-and-coming quarterback Daniel Gazelle and national team mainstay at running back, Romulo Ramos, the Patriotas are a disciplined team that avoids mistakes and challenges their opponents to do the same.
Levy admires the style of his counterpart:
“I have been a fan of Coach Mendes for a while now and really respect the way he commands his team. They play opportunistic football and will make you pay for bad decisions. We know we can’t play wreckless on Saturday and expect to win.”
Such cautionary words run contrary to what those who follow Levy–the architect of Brazil’s top offense and stingiest defense in 2017 – have come to know and expect. Led at quarterback by Brazilian Alvaro Fadini (260 yds., 4TD avg. per game), the Sada Cruzeiro offense is a high powered machine that is scoring at an average of 42 points a game. Meanwhile the defense has allowed only one touchdown this season while forcing an average of 3 turnovers per game, a blueprint which Coach Levy defines as complementary football.
“If we want to score points on offense, we need to turn the ball over on defense. It’s not rocket science, but it also doesn’t happen by accident. We want to play as a team, to play complementary football. As a coach, it’s difficult to go into a game knowing that you’ll have a hard time winning if you don’t score X number of points, or if you allow the other team to score X number of points. We need to possess the balance on both sides to adapt to the ebb and flow of the game and be capable of doing whatever it takes to win on that particular day.”
So how does Levy hope to find a win this weekend?
“Patience. Preparation. Execution. We’ve been waiting all season for this game, and we know the stakes. Now we just have to go out there and play the way we are capable of playing.”
With two undefeated records, conference supremacy, and home field playoff implications on the line, this is will be the game to watch in Brazil this weekend.