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It’s a new year, which means the Liga MX Clausura is underway and that means a slew of Peruvians abroad are back in action.
A few players moved to Liga MX over the past few weeks including Yoshimar Yotún (Cruz Azul) and Iván Santillán (Veracruz). Meanwhile, the likes of Anderson Santamaría (Atlas) and Beto da Silva (Lobos BUAP) switched clubs after the 2018 Apertura concluded.
There will be other new additions to the Peruvians abroad roundups in 2019 as well. Nilson Loyola joined Goias over the holidays and 19-year-old Marcos López recently sealed a move to the San Jose Earthquakes in MLS.
Despite those transfers, there are 10 Peruvians plying their trade in Mexico, more than any other country. That number might decrease to nine if Pedro Gallese finally joins Alianza Lima, though.
For now, there are 10 Peruvians abroad in Liga MX and six saw the field over the weekend. Here is an in-depth roundup on those who played over the past couple of days.
This is a huge year for Edison Flores. He was eased into the Monarcas Morelia lineup upon his arrival in the summer, then quickly returned to his 2017 form with the national team after leaving Denmark. Now it’s vital that he maintains this level heading into Copa América.
Flores certainly started strongly, even in a 3-1 defeat for Monarcas against Toluca. The Peruvian winger finished the match with six key passes, most of which should’ve been converted by his teammates.
This particular opportunity was vintage Flores. It was a shame it didn’t result in a goal.
Flores had two great chances of his own that went to waste as well.
On the bright side, every attack went through Flores and he thrived with that responsibility. He mainly occupied a central role which has been a constant theme for him in Michoacán, and he’s grown more comfortable in that position.
Flores ensured that the play always moved forward and orchestrated the game very nicely throughout his time on the pitch.
This is the Flores that Peru will need come the summer, so if he’s able to maintain these performances, then one crucial piece of the attack will be ready for Copa América.
The first goal of the 2019 Clausura was scored by a Peruvian, and he didn’t even start the match.
Ray Sandoval entered the game after 10 minutes following an injury to Carlos Morales. A few moments later, Sandoval opened the scoring.
GOL DE RAY SANDOVAL!
The Peruvian scores the first goal of the 2019 Clausura. Monarcas are currently tied 1-1 with Toluca.pic.twitter.com/ubQqO3UMqV
— The Peruvian Waltz (@PeruWaltz) January 5, 2019
Yes, it’s a scrappy goal. That doesn’t negate Sandoval’s effort, though, and he was buoyed by that strike. The 23-year-old was highly active on the left flank and even tracked back to defend. He won five of his eight defensive duels, completed three tackles and added two interceptions.
In fact, Flores and Sandoval combined nicely during the game. With Flores dictating the match centrally, Sandoval stretched the pitch with his dribbling and it had Toluca’s defence reeling at times.
Those are just three of the seven sequences between the two Peruvians that led to a shot. If Sandoval can lock down a spot in the Monarcas lineup – he lost his place midway through the Apertura after a hot start – then it would be intriguing to see if he makes the cut for Copa América.
Even Irven Ávila came off the bench in this game, but he didn’t attempt a single shot and other than the odd hold-up play.
The issue is Ávila isn’t a significant goal threat, even if he starts consistently. In 14 games with Monarcas Morelia, Ávila has posted 2.06 expected goals, or 0.15 xG per 90 minutes off 19 (!) shots.
As a target man, that’s where Ávila can thrive. But he needs a goal-scoring No. 9 partnering him and Monarcas doesn’t have one. Until that occurs, the Peruvian forward won’t be very useful.
Considering Yoshimar Yotún only joined Cruz Azul eight days prior to their Clausura opener versus Puebla, it’s fair to assume that Yotún will be eased into the 11 by coach Pedro Caixinha. Yotún logging approximately 20 minutes in Friday’s 1-1 draw is further evidence of that assumption as well.
The caveat is Yotún replaced Adrián Aldrete, Cruz Azul’s left-back. You have to go back to his Malmö days to find Yotún’s last appearance as a full-back. But he was actually very effective off the bench as a left-back. He won around half of his duels and had most of the attacking sequences filtered through him.
The problem was Yotún seldom drifted inside. If he starts at left-back, this might pose a problem for Ricardo Gareca. However, Orbelín Pineda – Cruz Azul’s other marquee signing – was woeful in midfield so maybe Caixinha reconsiders and moves the Peruvian centrally.
The only Peruvian outside of Mexico who saw some action this weekend was Luis Advíncula. His Rayo Vallecano side toppled Valladolid 1-0 with Advíncula lasting the full 90 minutes.
Right before the roundup went on its annual holiday break, Advíncula’s form was sputtering. His first game of 2019 wasn’t poor, but it wasn’t spectacular, either. Valladolid were alert to the danger he poses, yet there were some sloppy decisions made on the ball.
But my major worry over Advíncula’s recent play was his defending. He won just a single defensive duel (out of nine total) yet there were some brilliant interceptions as well.
It was a mixed bag from Advíncula, which isn’t necessarily a negative. It’s just not what we’re used to seeing on a weekly basis. Hopefully that changes very soon.
It wasn’t all great news for Peruvians abroad because Pedro Aquino exited León’s match against Tigres with a suspected muscle injury. This isn’t the first time Aquino has dealt with these niggling pains, so the more they resurface, the more worrying it becomes.
The good news is it doesn’t look serious. He’ll undergo tests on Monday and then a proper diagnosis will be made.
In terms of his performance, Aquino was one of the standouts on Saturday night. He was everywhere in the midfield and was second only to William Tesillo in total passes among León players.
This was actually even more impressive because Tigres relentlessly pressed León’s midfielders. Aquino committed some poor passes but overall it was a clean performance. Let’s just hope he’s back on the pitch as soon as possible.
Out of all the Peruvian players in Mexico, no one needs as big of a turnaround campaign as Anderson Santamaría. He lost his place in Puebla’s side after the World Cup due to his workload during the summer. He ended up falling behind his teammates in terms of fitness levels, then lost form as a result of the lack of minutes.
Now Santamaría is at Atlas and got off to a strong start in the Mexican capital. He helped the Rojinegro defeat Querétaro 2-1 and looked like his pre-World Cup self across the 90 minutes.
Interestingly, Santamaría was the right-sided centre-back, which is where he played in his final days at Puebla. In total, the 26-year-old completed eight interceptions and these were the pick of the lot.
The one criticism I had from this game was Santamaría not jockeying when an attacker rushed towards him. He got away with it because the final pass was poor. This led to his downfall with Puebla so he has to try to jockey the opposing forwards to avoid any repercussions.
If he tweaks that side of his game, then Santamaría should enjoy a successful Clausura.