After an ankle injury curtailed his start to the season, Uruguayan target man, Mauricio Affonso has burst onto the scene at Mamelodi Sundowns with three goals in his first three outings.
In early July, Sundowns announced that the 27-year-old had arrived on a five year contract, with two clear goals in mind. Firstly, Pitso Mosimane wanted to bring back the successful strategy of the 2015-16 season when he had a target man providing the focal point for three attacking midfielders in support.
Target man arrives
The coach stated in July:
“We had a number nine before, Leonardo Castro. He adapted well. I think you remember the CBD [Castro, Billiat and Dolly]. I want to go and try to revisit the same strategy and find out if he can help us. We won the league with 71 points. We won the CAF Champions League, we won the Telkom Knockout Cup, the team went to the FIFA Club World Cup. Hopefully, we can get the same.”
The other major reason for his addition is to give greater height for the team’s CAF Champions League clashes against physical African opponents. When Sundowns drew 0-0 with Wydad Casablanca in May to crash out in the semi-final on aggregate, the side desperately lacked a “plan B” against a deeper, organised defence.
The other major benefit of Affonso’s height in continental action is his ability to help a relatively short Downs side to defend set-plays. Mosimane explained where the 6’3” striker fits into his ambitions in that competition:
“We brought him in to help with Champions League where we struggle for height, like when we play Wydad Casablanca and USM Alger where the big boys are coming. I haven’t checked the Angolans yet, but when we play away we need someone to play like that and he is also good with his feet.”
A phenomenal start for Affonso
So far, Affonso has started in blistering fashion. He has netted three goals in his first three games, all of them from the substitutes’ bench as he is eased back to full fitness.
Against Cote d’Or, he played the final 11 minutes and headed in Lyle Lakay’s inswinging corner. Against AmZulu, he played the final 22 minutes and nodded home from Thapelo Morena’s right-wing cross, whilst against Highlands Park, he fired home in the 91st minute from Themba Zwane’s pass.
In total, has played 62 minutes, including added time, and has taken three shots – converting all of them. In addition to that, it was his fine header which laid on a clear opening for Morena to sky over the bar in that narrow win against The Lions of the North.
However, he only touched the ball eight times in his 29 minutes in that game and Mosimane was not happy with how little his teammates used him, telling SuperSport in his post-match interview:
“I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t play for him. Not just to head or flick the ball. He knows how to play football on the ground. He passes well, he moves well. The goal he scored is not the header we have seen. He has scored two goals with headers. What a record – three goals in three games in collectively maybe 70 minutes. He’s got a very good left foot.”
Although it is highly unlikely that Affonso will start on Sunday against Kaizer Chiefs as he strives for full match fitness, he will represent an excellent game-changing option if chasing the game or to hold the ball up and defend set-pieces if Sundowns are in-front. That could come in very handy against Amakhosi’s aerial prowess.