Featured Image: Canadian Press
The international break has begun. Peru’s first “friendly” against Chile is on Friday and the entire squad is now in the United States preparing for the Clásico del Pacífico.
Most of those players enter this game in very good form. However, some had to withdraw due to injuries, which might open the door for someone to impress Ricardo Gareca over the next eight days.
With that in mind, here’s your weekly roundup on 14 different players.
Did Cristian Benavente walk underneath 18 ladders or shatter 100 mirrors recently? He can’t seem to get any luck when it comes to the national team.
Despite receiving a call-up to the squad for these friendlies, Benavente had to be withdrawn due to a muscle-related injury he suffered on Friday against Cercle Brugge. Wilder Cartagena was called up as his replacement, which means the Spanish-born attacker has to wait until November for his next opportunity.
For what it’s worth, this was a nice preview ahead of the Chile and U.S. friendlies. Benavente was incredibly dynamic from the left wing again. He should’ve finished with a goal but his shot was cleared off the line.
Unfortunately, we won’t see Benavente with Peru for at least another month. Hopefully this form continues in the meantime.
Unfortunately for Pedro Gallese, the move to Boca Juniors did not pan out. It’s alleged that his financial demands swayed the loan and Boca opted for Bolivia international Carlos Lampe instead.
To Gallese’s credit, he responded emphatically to the news with a partidazo against Necaxa. He made six saves to help Veracruz preserve a 0-0 draw and was easily the man of the match in this one.
Gallese is a quality goalkeeper. His issues are injuries and playing for a low-profile club. If Peru’s No. 1 could stay fit regularly, then he could very easily earn a move to a bigger team. For now, he’ll have to stay at Veracruz and hope that a transfer will be formulated.
Wilder Cartagena began the weekend knowing that he’d have to stay behind while his countrymen travelled to the U.S. Thanks to Benavente’s injury, Cartagena is back in the fold.
This creates a logjam in midfield with Renato Tapia, Yoshimar Yotún, Pedro Aquino, Sergio Peña and Horacio Calcaterra. However, Cartagena is unique because he is more of a defensive shield, but with less passing range.
Cartagena is what Germans call a “raumdeuter” or “space investigator.” It’s more commonly used for forwards like Thomas Muller. However, that is a very apt description for the Peruvian. He can sense the danger and make the necessary intervention before an attack begins.
This was seen against Necaxa on Friday night. Watch how he quickly senses the midfielders trying to advance play before making the vital block.
His distribution is patchy but there’s no doubting Cartagena’s work rate. Even when a pass goes awry, he chases it down.
This was a decent showing for Cartagena in general. He won about half of his defensive duels and completed around three or four tackles in the game. He’s not a flashy player but he’s effective in his role. That’s why Ricardo Gareca trusts him.
It’s almost poetic how Yordy Reyna’s last two call-ups came to be.
After an incredible run of form from July to October last year, Reyna made the final Peru squads of 2018 and even had a couple of appearances off the bench in vital World Cup qualifiers.
Fast forward another 12 months and Reyna is back with the team for a similar reason. He’s posted three goals and five assists since the end of July in all competitions and has been one of Vancouver’s most consistent attackers in that span.
Reyna’s latest assist was Ronaldinho-esque and it helped the Whitecaps topple MLS champions Toronto FC on Saturday.
Yordy Reyna with a NO-LOOK assist for Vancouver’s opener 👀pic.twitter.com/gosrje7Yqm
— The Peruvian Waltz (@PeruWaltz) October 6, 2018
Reyna was also involved in the buildup for the winning goal. The Peruvian recovered the ball and quickly released Jordon Mutch into open space down the right before Kei Kamara converted in the box.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) October 6, 2018
Reyna has played in a number of roles for Vancouver, whether it’s been a second striker, No. 10 or on the wing. This makes Ricardo Gareca’s job a little tougher because the 25-year-old has traditionally played on the wing for Peru. I think he’s best utilized playing off another striker. Maybe we’ll see a partnership with Raúl Ruidíaz at some point this week.
Make that two straight appearances for Alexi Gómez after spending two months out in the cold.
Gómez came off the bench but played the entirety of the second half for Minnesota United in their 5-1 loss to the Philadelphia Union. He entered the match when Philadelphia was leading 4-0, so his performance should be taken with a grain of salt in this case.
Regardless, Gómez was excellent off the bench. He was actually deployed as a winger as opposed to a wingback, which has been his regular role since the beginning of the summer. It’s no surprise that he thrived in an advanced position with fewer defensive responsibilities.
Gómez could bomb forward without worrying about tracking back and it led to some majestic runs.
The end product from his teammates wasn’t there but Gómez added dynamism and unpredictability to the attack. The Union couldn’t contain the Peruvian winger in the second half, which makes me wonder whether he’ll reclaim that spot for the rest of the season.
It’s becoming frustrating seeing Andy Polo constantly switching roles. One game he’s a central midfielder, then he’s a winger. It isn’t too drastic of a change in Giovanni Savarese’s system, but it leads to inconsistent performances from the Peruvian.
He wasn’t poor by any means over the weekend. He just wasn’t as impactful in the game. There was the odd slaloming run or decent link-up with teammates, but they weren’t worrisome for Real Salt Lake.
Polo’s next step in his development depends on a consistent role in the team. Otherwise, he’ll be nothing more than an above-average player. But that’s dependent on his coaches, whether it’s in Portland or elsewhere.
Speaking of constantly rotating positions, Carlos Ascues was back in the midfield for Orlando City in their 2-0 defeat to FC Dallas.
One reason why I don’t like Ascues in the midfield is his distribution, but to his credit, he didn’t push the bill in this game. He usually won possession, then laid it off for Yoshimar Yotún, who is much more accomplished on the ball.
In fact, Ascues completed more passes to Yotún than any other player.
This is usually how those sequences turned out:
The one advantage to Ascues carrying more of the burden in possession is his strength. He’s so powerful that he’s practically unstoppable when he hits full stride. Unfortunately, that eagerness can cost him.
I could see Ascues occupying this role as a Renato Tapia-type midfielder with Yotún fulfilling his regular duties. But that’s an experiment for 2019 when the pre-season begins. More time on the training ground means a better understanding will be developed.
As for Yoshimar Yotún, he was his same old self; hitting passes on a dime and generally dictating the tempo in midfield.
However, as I’ve repeatedly stated, Yotún has far too much time on the ball in MLS. Sometimes that pays off, but in moments like these, it can lead to some dangerous chances for the opposition.
That doesn’t occur as often with Orlando, although it clearly cost Peru against Germany and Holland last month. Yotún would benefit by just keeping it simple sometimes. Just cycle the ball around, wait for the opening and understand where his teammates will be positioned. Pedro Aquino (Liga MX) and Renato Tapia (Eredivisie) have this because a poor first touch or a slight delay can lead to a turnover in their respective leagues.
Hopefully an upturn in form begins for Yotún this Friday against Chile.
Hot take: Luis Advíncula will stay in Europe after his loan period expires. Okay, it’s not exactly scolding. But Advíncula’s Spanish domination continued, even in defeat for Rayo Vallecano.
Advíncula was arguably Rayo’s best player against Leganés, which has become a common theme early in the season. The Peruvian right-back misplaced just seven (!) of his 59 passes and was hitting some absolute gems throughout the 90 minutes.
It’s safe to say that we have an alternative to Miguel Trauco attempting these passes.
But even defensively, Advíncula can’t put in a foot wrong. He led all players with four tackles and won all but one of his defensive duels. Leganés had to avoid that flank because there was no way through.
There is simply no stopping Advíncula at the moment.
Pedro Aquino was back on the pitch as a second-half substitute after a minor injury, so he arrived to training in the United States with some minutes under his belt.
In about 40 minutes (including stoppage time), Aquino didn’t put a foot wrong and was, not for the first time, an absolute beast.
Remember the incisiveness I brought up about Yotún? See below…
Now watch Aquino when he’s pressured. Instead of attempting to dribble out of the press, he turns around and passes it back. León stays in possession, doesn’t concede a dangerous counter-attack and stay in control. Simple, but necessary.
That doesn’t mean Aquino wasn’t looking for the killer pass, though.
As if that wasn’t enough, Aquino leads Liga MX in tackles and interceptions per 90 minutes. What’s astounding is he’s only been in Mexico since last summer. At this rate, Aquino will be in Europe.
Top 10 tackles plus interceptions per 90 minutes in #ligamxeng 2018-19 👇👇👇
🔘León's two ball-winning midfielders sit first and second
🔘5 left-backs in the top 10, but curiously no right-backs. Wonder if Liga MX teams attack down the right more often than the left? pic.twitter.com/jcLWbXTXvF
— Tom Harrison (@tomh_36) October 5, 2018
Luis Abram enters this international break on a high. While Vélez Sarsfield lost 3-1 to San Martín, Abram was quite solid in his 90 minutes.
The only error Abram committed was towards the end of the match. He was outmuscled by Pablo Daniel Magnin, who ended up setting up the third goal for San Martín.
That shouldn’t overlook the positives, though. Abram completed 89 per cent of his 56 passes, penetrating the lines on several occasions.
Thanks to Gabriel Heinze’s willingness to play with a higher line, it’s allowed Abram to roam forward more often. Before he left Peru, the 22-year-old was more reserved with his positioning. Now he’s more than happy to push up.
These next seven-to-eight days will be very intriguing for Abram. Now that Alexander Callens is back in the fold, there’s another competitor for the left centre-back role. It’s up to the Argentina-based defender to thrive in training and keep Gareca’s trust. Otherwise, he might slip down the depth chart.
After a sensational match in the Europa League on Thursday, Christian Cueva was given some rest for Krasnodar’s league match against Zenit St. Petersburg.
The Peruvian playmaker eventually checked into the game for the final 20 minutes to boost the attack. He was decent, although nowhere near as dominant compared to Thursday.
Cueva set up a couple of nice chances, but was quiet otherwise, much like Krasnodar’s attack as a whole. Zenit were incredibly disciplined with their positioning and loaded the centre of the pitch, which meant Cueva had little space to operate.
Still, this was some nice circulation of the ball in the final third.
Let’s see if Cueva carries this into the friendlies. He needs a strong showing in these games to calm his critics.
Paolo Hurtado finally made his full Turkish Super Lig debut for Konyaspor and scored again in a 2-2 draw with Besiktas.
That is the fifth time Hurtado (two goals, three assists) has been involved in a goal for Konyaspor in the last three games.
The goal aside, it was a productive start for Hurtado. He was deployed as the No. 10 but drifted to the right side, which has often been the case, both at Konyaspor and Vitoria de Guimaraes.
Most of Hurtado’s passing combinations occurred on the right side, including these two chances (watch jersey No. 16).
It looks like André Carrillo will start for Peru against Chile. But considering the form Hurtado is riding, he has to be given a shot at some point this week.