(Repost) Thoughts on La Vinotinto in FIFA 19

Note: The following is an old article posted on a previous WordPress site created by me. It’s being reposted here for archiving purposes and is hugely out of date.

With the next edition of EA’s FIFA on the way and the landscape of Venezuelan talent growing more visible and impressive in the last year, the topic of Vinotinto FIFA cards arose in my mind as a great way to plot out how the public view of these players and the national team are changing. It also provides a consumable way to monitor the status of some of Venezuela’s most promising prospects, all of which are relatively new to FIFA having only joined included leagues in the last year or two.

The first portion of this article will be written prior to the FIFA 19 card releases, with the second portion of course written after.

With all this in mind, I’m going to run through some key points from the FIFA 18 card set and then review the changes for FIFA 19. First off, let’s look at the entirety of FIFA 18’s Venezuelan player cards, as presented by Futhead.com:

Martinez and the Search for High Ratings

The biggest storyline of the FIFA 18 cards is without a doubt Josef Martinez’ vast array of boosted cards, of which there are four ranging from 81 to 88 rankings (Martinez’ base card having a 76 rating). These enhanced cards, earned through his various achievements this MLS season, not only put him at historic heights for Venezuelan FIFA card ratings, they made him a viable option at higher levels of the game.

His 88 ranked card, created after he broke the MLS single season scoring record, puts him in contention with names far bigger than he’s ever been for a spot in your attacking half, something few Venezuelans players have been able to have in FIFA. With no Venezuelan player having a FIFA card ranked 90 or higher, Martinez’s MLS antics may finally be setting up the next step.

Martinez is flanked by other decently rated cards in the high 70’s and lower 80’s, particularly those of Rincon, Rondon, Anor, and Rosales. All five create the higher quality core Venezuelan’s FIFA representation has needed to be playable competitively against squads with players that feel like super robots in the real and virtual worlds.

Left Out or Under Appreciated

A big subject of potential improvement in this group will be the youngsters who have recently been integrated into the senior national team and found their way to bigger clubs in Europe, MLS, and South America. These include the likes of Sergio Cordova, Yeferson Soteldo, Ronald Hernandez, and Wuilker Farinez. Many of these players are either not present in the 2018 edition of the game or low rated and their recent progress should earn them a stronger presence.

There are also seven notable names involved with the national team that were not in FIFA 18 due to playing in non-included leagues at the relevant time. All seven of these players have since found their way to included leagues and should expect to feature on the digital side as they have in real life for some time. I’ve included a list of those players below.

Cards we expect to notably increase:

Jefferson Savarino, Josef Martinez, Darwin Machis, Sergio Cordova, Alexander Gonzalez

Key players without cards in 18:

Jhon Chancellor, Fernando Aristeguieta, Wuilker Farinez, Junior Moreno, Romulo Otero, Ronald Hernandez, Jordan Osorio

Cards we expect to suffer in some way: 

Roberto Rosales, Juan Anor, Oswaldo Vizcarrando

—————————————————————————————————————————————

Alright, now we’re back post release and with the entire set of cards, let’s see how they players faired in FIFA 19:

Notable Improvements:

Sergio Cordova – Cordova’s 5 point boost from FIFA 18 isn’t a major story for big time FIFA players, neither is his move from bronze to silver, but the upgrade is a good sign for a player who’s last year has been a story of development and fighting for minutes. That journey continues for him but seeing his digital presence rise to a more respectable place should reflect to viewers that he’s made progress. It also means using him in the squad in  kick off won’t seem like a sacrifice for the sake of squad accuracy. He can instead see use as a reasonable option, perhaps offering the most through his respectable 77 pace.

Josef Martinez – It should come as no surprise that Martinez found himself with a nice upgrade going into FIFA 19, in this case a five point boost along with several boosted stats (though it’s worth noting that his dribbling and passing were notched down a few points). With that in mind, the card is a historic one for the Atlanta United striker, who is the highest rated card in the Venezuelan roster in FIFA 19 and finds himself rated higher at 81 than any Venezuelan original card was in FIFA 18 (the highest was Rondón with 80).  With his move into the 80’s range, Martinez is a more relevant option upfront than ever before and will surely find himself in the running for any MLS or South American squads roaming the plains of FUT.

https://twitter.com/ATLUTD/status/1040405267962388481

Darwin Machis – Machis enters FIFA 19 off of a positive return to Udinese in Serie A and a recent series of national team call ups which concluded with him scoring his first senior international goal. Machis’ one point boost makes him one of six gold cards in the Venezuelan roster, his first gold card after years of playing around Europe. Perhaps the most exciting part of Machis’ new card is its deadly 90 pace, which is paired with respectable dribbling and shooting ratings of 79 and 72 respectively. If Serie A goes well we could very well see an even nicer card coming Machis way in due time. Despite floating on the horizon of relevance in regards to the Venezuelan roster both real and digital over the years, at 25 Machis has finally found his pathway to notability.

Notable Downgrades:

Juan Anor – Anor’s drop to 74 and a silver card is a somewhat expected one following his dismal relegation season with Malaga in La Liga, in which he earned two assists and no goals in 16 appearances despite his role as a key attacking player. The situation culminated in his absence from the national team test roster used recently in friendlies. He was expected to leave Malaga like Rosales did (moved to Espanyol from Malaga), but instead stuck around, though he’s only just returned to the team after several weeks. With attacking midfield and wing options like Otero and Machis, Añor looks likely to not feature much in the FIFA 19 national team.

Salomón Rondón – Rondon finds himself in a similar siutaition, having played for West Brom during their 17/18 relegation season in the premier league. It is worth noting that he got 10 goals and 4 assists in all competitions for West Brom in 2017-2018. All this in mind, players who struggled at clubs who struggled are destined for a rating drop and finding himself at 77 in FIFA 19, I see no reason to complain. The rating keeps him relevant and his stats. He’ll (and I’ll) hope his time with Newcastle United provides reason for FIFA 19 to throw him a better card.

Mikel Villanueva – Villanueva had a pretty positive season with Liga123 club Cadiz CF in 17-18, but this didn’t stop him from earning a 4 point decrease on his FIFA rating ahead of his move to fellow Liga123 club Reus. Villanueva is actually owned by Malaga, who up until recently were a La Liga club. The context of his rating drop could be due to some injury issues or his exclusion from the national team, but it is never the less a bummer for a card that could very well come in handy as a secondary center back option.

Notable New Cards: 

Wuilker Farinez – With a 73 rating in hand, Farinez comes crashing into the FIFA scene with his first ever card, one which leaves him the highest rated Venezuelan keeper in the game. The card is a good one for the now-Millonarios man whose had a mixture of highs and lows at his new club in Colombia, but FIFA, like much of the world, see the explosive potential of the youngster who’s his country’s starting keeper and a starting keeper in Colombia at 20 years of age.

Hopefully this 73 silver card is the start of fantastic digital journey for the goal line savant, one that may very well mirror the journey of one of the top young, developing keepers in Latin America, perhaps one day the world.

Yordan Osorio – Perhaps the most surprising rating in the whole game for me was Yordan Osorio, a center back who’s hopped around the Portuguese Liga, earning minutes here and there, all the while being owned by a loan-prone FC Porto. He had a positive time with the national team recently, but as I opened the ratings page I did not expect him to have earned a 74 rating, putting him on the edge of gold status.

It isn’t crazy to suspect that IF Angel and Chancellor (read below) had been in the game, they would have been rated lower than him. Just another reason to keep an eye on the Vitória de Guimarães center back.

Romulo Otero – Having popped around clubs sine his 2016 move out of Caracas FC, Romulo Otero currently finds himself in Al-Wehda’s squad in Saudi Arabia and in FIFA 19 with an impressive 75 rated gold card.

Having not featured in FIFA 18, Otero’s return is well timed as he now presents the side’s best creative midfield option in FIFA 19. Needless to say his card finds itself in a position where it will be a required tool in the kick off national team squad.

Ronald Hernandez – Though his 62 rated bronze card is one of the more humble editions to the Venezuelan roster in FIFA 19, Hernandez’ addition to FIFA via his transfer to Stabæk of the Norwegian top flight is a great moment for anyone who’s been following the progress of the U20 World Cup group of 2017. Hernandez was a key factor in that group and would even go on to make two senior team appearances in the final World Cup qualifiers, a series of matches in which the team would play immensely better than it had previously in the campaign.

Though he did not make the September friendlies against Colombia and Panama due to visa issues, his time in Norway has shown real signs of progress and increase in his stock. With a little time, Hernandez will become a key figure for the national team, perhaps jumping Alexander Gonzalez for the starting LB spot. That much I’m willing to bet on.

Junior Moreno – With almost 140 club appearances on his belt before his move to DC United at the age of 24, Moreno finally finds himself in FIFA with a 65 rated silver card.

Having found a place as Tomas Rincon’s chosen partner in the defensive portion of the midfield (partially aided by the long term injury picked up by young star Yangel Herrera of New York City FC), Moreno is a must-have for la vinotinto and his presence in the game a positive symptom of the flood of Venezuelans into Major League Soccer.

Russian Premier League Exclusion

Jhon Chancellor & Wilker Angel:

A story line that has developed over the summer, largely unknown to me until recently, is the fact that FIFA 19 will not feature the Russian Premier League this season. This is rooted in a exclusive deal made between PES and the league which leaves only the Russian clubs involved in the Champions and Europa League to be in FIFA 19.

This means that Jhon Chancellor and Wilker Angel, who play for Anzhi and Akhmet Grozny respectively, will not be receiving player cards in the new edition of the game. This is unfortunate for a few reasons. First off, Chancellor’s card would have been his first ever and the move means that he won’t be in the game properly for at least a year, perhaps more depending on where things stand for 2020. The second issue is that the two players are the two starting center backs for the national team. This means that player cards will only be available for back up options or ex-nationa team center backs like Yordan Osorio, Oswaldo Vizcarrondo, and Mikel Villanueva.

NOTE: Worth noting that Osorio’s surprisingly high rating means having him take on a more important role in the game’s roster might not be the end of the world

It is quite possible that EA will have the players feature as playable when playing as the national team in Kick Off mode, a situation that has happened before for national teams in the game, including Venezuela. This solution would certainly help the team be accurate to the real world. Either way its a minor but unfortunate obstacle to take on for those looking forward to playing la vinotinto in FIFA 19.

NOTE: I checked on the PES 2019 ratings for both players and found Chancellor is rated 70 while Angel is rated 73. Ratings between the two games are relatively similar, so I’d say this means both players would have been in the low 70’s if they’d been featured in FIFA 19.

Major League Soccer

Another plot point to look at before we call it on this article is the fact that 10 of the Venezuelan cards in FIFA 19 are MLS cards, a symbol of just how huge the Venezuelan flux into the league over the last year has been. These ten are Herrara, Martinez, Savarino, Fuenmayor, Jr., Blondell, Peña, Feltscher, Sosa, and Moreno. Five of those players (Fuenmayor, Jr., Blondell, Sosa, and Moreno) did not have FIFA cards before FIFA 19.

With the promise of bigger opportunities through the league, Venezuelans have flooded MLS with a variety of talented players, mostly young. Martinez’ success may be the most attention getting portion of this story, but younger talents like Herrera, Fuenmayor, and Peña may prove the most defining part of the experiment. It will continue to be interesting to see how these mostly young talents progress in MLS and if the promises of being a launch point for Europe prove true.

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