The Rio de Janeiro Flamengo head to Belo Horizonte, Brazil Saturday to face the Sada Cruzeiro in a crucial matchup in the BFA, Brazil’s top league.
The 0-2 Flamengo were Super Liga finalists in 2016 but have had trouble scoring in their first two outings losing 3-0 to the Botafogo Reptiles and 30-16 to Vasco da Gama Patriotas. The Sada Cruzeiro under second year head coach Daniel Levy were 42-0 winners over the Minas Locomotiva.
Belo Horizonte enter the game on a win streak. Under Levy, the team has not lost a game in over 400 days dating back to early 2016.
Sada Cruzeiro quarterback Alvaro Fadinio threw for for 201 yards and four touchdowns in the win over Locomotiva while adding another 88 yards rushing and a touchdown. Wide receiver Victor Hugo (“Mega”) is another key for Belo Horizonte. Although he was quiet in the last game, in the state final in June he hauled in five receptions for 103 yards and two touchdowns. Many observers consider him to be one of the top receivers in Brazil, so Flamengo’s secondary will have to keep him in check.
The Sada Cruzeiro backfield includes running back Rafael Fadini (Alvaro’s brother, and Well Garcia, the 2016 Brazil Bowl MVP (he played for Timbo Rex in 2016 and rushed for three touchdowns against the Flamengo in the championship game. A former Brazilian track star he may well be the fastest player in the country.
The Sada Cruzeiro defensive secondary is anchored by cornerback Raphael da Cruz who posted two interceptions in the last game. He will probably be matched up against Flamengo’s best wideout in Patrick Dutton, one of the more dangerous receivers in Brazil.
Flamengo’s key player on defense is middle linebacker Ival Maziero.
Nineteen year old Ryan David, is, despite his young age, the leading tackler for Sada Cruzeiro. In the state final in June, he recorded 11 tackles and a fumble recovery.
Levy’s coaching staff includes defensive coordinator Alexandre Braga, who arrived three weeks ago from Austria where he coached the defensive secondary for the Cinneplex Blue Devils. He coached under Levy with Poland’s Warsaw Eagles in 2016:
“Having Lex down here has been a huge boost for the team. Before, I was kind of bogged down coordinating all three phases… doing game plans and practice plans for offense, defense and special teams. With Lex here, I am not spread as thin, and he is a coach whom I trust and don’t feel the need to manage. He keeps me in the loop and we are able to be more targeted with how we practice and dig deeper into our game planning so we can prepare more thoroughly for teams. The fact that he is Brazilian, speaks Portuguese fluently, and has international experience is a huge bonus, and I know that the players trust him just as much as I do.”
Levy is not underestimating Flamengo despite their 0-2 record:
“Flamengo were a couple of plays away from being national champions last year, so I don’t care what their record is right now. I consider us the underdogs going into this game. A lot of people outside of the team talk about our offseason and the big signings we made, but you don’t get trophies or rings for having a championship offseason. We have a lot to prove, and we know that there is a target on our backs. This team is taking nothing for granted.”