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With the beautiful game in a constant state of change, writing about football has been an interesting pass time over the course of 2020. While I usually aim for larger articles looking to investigate a story, I’ve also decided post the occasional blog post while I seek out other projects. The following is one of those blog posts.
Recent news has revealed a very exciting move for la Vinotinto’s top goalkeeper, Wuilker Fariñez. The Caracas-born keeper joined Millonarios in 2018, following his heroics throughout the 2017 U20 World Cup and a series of senior team appearances, immediately announcing himself to the Colombian game. He made his debut in a pair of appearances against Atlético Nacional in the Superliga Colombiana, which he won.
Since then, he’s been a constant face in the Millonarios lineup, in addition to Venezuela’s. The 22 year old’s roots in Caracas should not be forgotten. He played with Caracas FC at the youth and senior levels, making his name early in FutVe as a shot stopper. Further details on his skills can be seen in the Solovenex montage below.
Now, however, Fariñez is set to finally show his skills in Europe with the announcement of a move to RC Lens, who were promoted to Ligue 1 in the 2019-20 season. Lens were in second place with 53 points in Ligue 2 when French football chose to end their seasons early due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They return to the top tier of France after being relegated down to Ligue 2 in the 2014-15 season. The club had the least losses in Ligue 2 after 28 games with five, three less than first place Lorient.
Fariñez move marks yet another key figure from the 2017 U20 World Cup run being rewarded for their efforts, as he joins the likes of Yangel Herrera, Samuel Sosa, Sergio Córdova, and Adalberto Peñaranda in the ranks of Europe. Fariñez has been rumored for quite some time with connections to Europe, with many wondering why he was still in Colombia despite already being one of la Vinotinto’s most important players.
All of this being said, I’d like to look through the potentials of this move and give my thoughts on what it could mean for Fariñez.
For better or for worse, there is a certain status given to playing in certain parts of the world. Colombia, and certainly Venezuela, do not fit into that view of the great leagues of the world. These days even Brazil and Argentina struggle to stay high on that list for some, especially those unfamiliar with South America.
Wuilker Fariñez is, and has been for some time, one of Venezuela’s biggest talents. We have good forwards. We have good midfielders. We have good defenders. We have a supernatural goalkeeper. You cannot train reflexes like those shown in Fariñez’ various famous triple saves, like the one against Atlético Nacional in the above highlight reel. There is rarely game where la Vinotinto are not saved and improved by his presence and it’s easy to understand how the 22 year old is an automatic addition to the starting eleven.
The stats are not unkind either. In his 22 appearances for la Vinotinto, he’s kept eleven clean sheets. His defensive record expands to the Copa Liberatdores and Copa Sudamericana, where he’s shined for both Millonarios and Caracas. All in all, Fariñez has almost 200 professional club appearances between his two homes, impressing at both.
Despite the obvious talent, Fariñez’ lack of European adventures has left his career seeming less eventful in comparison to his many compatriots. How do outfield players still finding their footing manage to find homes in Germany, Spain, and England while an obvious star waits in the wings?
Now he’s finally off to France, seemingly with first team Ligue 1 football in his grasp. It’s a major jump for the Venezuelan spider and likely to prove a challenge. He’ll have to contend with the top clubs of France for points, and likely survival. PSG, Lyon, and Marseille are, to be frank, an utterly different animal compared to most of what Fariñez has faced at the club level. As part of a newly promoted club, the Venezuelan keeper will be asked to take on a huge task. That said, I think there’s no better challenge for a player who has been underestimated and undervalued for so long.
Improved quality of opposition and a vast new world of coaches, teammates, and influences would have a major impact on any player. For someone like Fariñez, who is already a starlet at 22, they could be the key to greatness.
With the remainder of their offseason work still unclear, it’d be fair to say Lens shouldn’t be expected to finish especially high on the Ligue 1 table, though given their strong Ligue 2 season and their apparent intelligence in finding strong hidden gems in the offseason, I’m beginning to feel they’re set to avoid relegation back to Ligue 2. One decent season with Lens could do wonders for Fariñez’ stock in the transfer market. I believe that “decent” season is very much in the cards. I expect Fariñez to impress, especially in the context of a young keeper making his European debut, and I expect that Lens will manage to lock in Ligue 1 football for the 2021-22 season.
This move, one which almost happened a year ago, will prove a vital step in the career of one of the most important active Venezuelan footballers today. It will be the year that Wuilker Fariñez man stops existing only in the bubble of South American football writers and fans. It will be the year he joins the likes of Herrera, Rincón, Chancellor, Osorio, and Machís as ambassadors of Venezuelan quality in Europe. Folks, it’s going to be quite the year.
With the beautiful game in a constant state of change, writing about football has been an interesting pass time over the course of 2020. While I usually aim for larger articles looking to investigate a story, I’ve also decided post the occasional blog post while I seek out other projects. The following is one of those blog posts.
My kit collection is small, at least compared to some you’ll find in the closets of other football writers, or even just other football fans. That being said, the small collection contains immense importance for me. Without a doubt, my Venezuela kit is the core of the collection. The top, featuring the wine-like color that gives the team its nickname of “la Vinotinto” and a neon yellow trim, is my only national team top of any sort. It was used, from what I can recall, from 2015 to 2018.
The top was my first football top ever, aside from a few I used playing as a kid. By the time I got it, I had seen it used to bring glory in the Copa América Centenario in 2016 and the 2017 U20 World Cup. I had seen Salomòn Rondón score off a crazy rebound to beat Uruguay, Sergio Córdova slide one past Mexico, and Samuel Sosa curl in a dream of a free kick in the U20 World Cup semi-finals. I began to wear it regularly on my college campus, taking good care of it and ensuring it avoided even the slightest stain.
In many ways, the top represents the birth of my love for la Vinotinto, which was utterly reforged from a slow burn into a raging fire over the course of 2016 and 2017. The shirt allowed me to wear my pride in a way I’d never really experienced, and while most people were unable to identify its origin upon meeting me, I enjoyed explaining the top and la Vinotinto to them every single time.
The top is unfortunately associated with Venezuela’s troubled campaign to qualify. for the 2018 World Cup, but I never let that stop me from loving it. I saw Venezuela make U20 history in this shirt. I saw my favorite players score in this shirt. I saw the top teams, both U20 and senior, fail to defeat this shirt.
The shirt is my only current Adidas top, though I’m sure that will eventually change. While the white stripes that came before this version of the kit were probably a better color combination, I found myself loving the silliness of the neon yellow (or perhaps neon green?) stripes and trim that adorn the top. There’s something utterly fun about, something senseless. It reminds me how senseless it is to support this national team that all too often is the underdog and all too often seems doomed to stay the underdog. I don’t mind the losses. I don’t mind the neon trim. It’s perfect. It’s my team.
Perhaps the point of this entry, my brief love letter to this kit, is to embrace tops that mean something to you on a deep level. You can buy a dozen fun designs, but the kit that warms your heart is always going to be your favorite. Don’t be afraid of your kit being low on clout, or lacking the stars of a century of victories, just buy the shirt that matters to you.
If there’s anything I can ask of the reader, it’s to post your own kit stories, whether that be on a post relating to this article or just on your own.
Coming off of his first goal for la Vinotinto, Soteldo has continued an amazing form at Santos, scoring yet another goal this week. It’s his fifth goal in his last five league appearances.
The Venezuelan may be known best for his height, but his tricky feet are becoming a must for Santos, even earning the attention of Pelé himself.
Sergio Cordova: Augsburg 4-0 Hertha Berlin
It may have been a strong tap in after a teammate was tackled off the ball by Hertha’s keeper, but Cordova still grabbed a goal in his first start in months for Augsburg. The side would go on to win 4-0 to lift themselves out of the relegation zone.
Andres Ponce: Akhmat 2-1 Orenburg
Ponce scored a penalty and his third goal of the season to help Akhmat to a 2-1 win over Orenburg, a vital win as his side seek to escape relegation. Fellow Venezuelan Wilker Angel started the game as well and played the full 90 minutes while Ponce was subbed off in the 89th.
As with last week, Soteldo’s Santos side continued to impress this week with a pair of wins over Avai and Goias. Soteldo played the first 65 minutes of the win over Avai, playing well but not standing out as much as his fellow attackers. Soteldo had a fantastic second game, scoring twice and assisting a goal against Goias.
His first goal came after a cross into the box was deflected out to the edge of the 18 yard box. Soteldo hit the ball with a beautiful volley shot and sent it rocketing into the far upper corner, marking one of his best goals since joining Santos.
The second goal was a beautiful tap in from an arching Marinho cross, with the short-of-stature Venezuelan outrunning his marker and smashing the ball home to seal the result.
Soteldo and Santos have been on a roll, with the club securing its fourth straight win, having not lost in five. Soteldo now has four goals and an assist in his last three matches, a strong output for the Venezuelan who has eight goals this season and is the club’s tied for second highest scorer with Carlos Sanchez (8), while both are behind Eduardo Sasha (12).
Romulo Otero: Atlético Mineiro 2-0 Goias, Atlético Mineiro 0-0 Cruzeiro
The Brazilian glory wasn’t just for Soteldo, as fellow Vinotinto player Romulo Otero impressed with Atlético Mineiro and helped them see out a win and a draw in the top flight.
Playing 89 minutes of the win over Goias, Otero was an active part of the attack despite not scoring or assisting. The Venezuelan completed 24 accurate passes midweek to help Atlético reach 39 points.
Facing 16th place Cruzeiro on the weekend, Otero aided his side to a 0-0 draw which saw them continue their positive form and wrap up a double match week of action without conceding a goal.
Oh and it was his birthday on the 9th, feliz cumpleanos Rómulo! The Venezuelan turns 26 this year. What better way to celebrate than all further solidifying Copa Sudamericana football for your club next season?
Mario Rondón: Cluj 1-0 Rennes, Cluj 0-0 Bucuresti
The veteran Vinotinto striker had an eventful, if somewhat imperfect, week. He played the last 20 minutes of Romanian side Cluj’s Europa League tie with Rennes. He didn’t just play, however. Rondón scored a brilliant header in the 87th minute to all but cement Cluj’s spot in the knockout rounds.
The striker did, however, get sent off in the 90th minute for a hard foul on Joris Gnagnon. Overall, it was a good show for the striker, who had a memorable Thursday and gave his club a vital 1-0 win.
Cluj are currently at the top of the table in Romania and continued their campaign with an away draw against Dinamo Bucuresti. Rondón started the game as the lead striker. While no goals came his way, the point earned helps Cluj maintain a 2 point league in the Romanian top flight.
Tomas Rincon: Torino 4-0 Brescia
El General helped Torino to a triumphant 4-0 win over Brescia, who are currently missing the injured Jhon Chancellor at the back. Rincón didn’t partake in the goals, but the resulting clean sheet was a welcome sign that Torino’s defense is stabilizing, having struggled for over a month with poor results. The club had not won a match since late September, finding solace in draws with Cagliari and Napoli in October.
Torino will need to get back on track soon to remain top contenders for the upper half of the table and this weekend’s result will be a major factor in their momentum building operation. With a tough away match against Inter coming next weekend, Rincón and company will need to stick to their best performances to pull points from the title contenders.
Hello and welcome to a new series I’ll be running on my website. This blog will look to highlight my top three or four performers amongst Venezuelans playing (football) outside of Venezuela, with a particular focus on those within la Vinotinto’s roster.
Players listed are just a reflection from what I saw and noticed that week and there will surely be times where I brutally miss good options. Players are not listed in a particularly order of importance, though my actual writing may project which I feel had the best weekend.
If you enjoy the series, keep an eye for it every week, likely on Mondays or Tuesdays once the most recent round of matches is over.
Jhonder Cadiz: Dijon 2-1 PSG
Cadiz’ loan to a Dijon side that has struggled to get out of the relegation zone in Ligue 1 this season was met with mixed reactions when it took place late this summer. The prospect of playing in Ligue 1 is far from beneath Cadiz’ progressing career, but many had hoped the Venezuelan would play for Benfica, who bought him at the beginning of that same off season.
He’s picked up minutes slowly at Dijon, getting his first start in a 2-0 loss to Bordeaux in Coupe de la Ligue, but his first league start would be his best minutes for the club yet. Set loose against French titans PSG, Cadiz’ 47th minute goal would prove the key to Dijon earning their first ever league victory against PSG.
It’s still very unclear what club or country Cadiz’ future will send him to, but topping his first big start with a big goal to left some of the tensions at Dijon will surely be a diamond for his resume.
Yordan Osorio: Zenit 4-0 Tomsk
Osorio notched 90 more minutes and his second Russian Cup victory for Zenit midweek as they beat 2nd tier Tomsk 4-0 in the Round of 16. Zenit, who are favorites to win both of Russia’s domestic trophies at their current pace, have found uses for Osorio despite depth in defensive positions.
The Venezuelan, on loan from FC Porto, has managed a Champions League start (1-1 against Lyon), along with two positive CL substitute appearances and one league appearance in a 3-1 win over Ural. His performance against Tomsk was highlighted by his 100% passing accuracy, with all 77 of his paces meeting their mark.
Osorio will have to fight hard to get a consistent spot in a squad full of the Russian Premier League’s best, but he’s still managed to leave a mark on the squad with months of time left to do more. If all stays the same, the Venezuelan will likely leave Russia with a winners medal of some sort, whether he stays with Zenit long term or wins his way into the Porto 18.
Ronald Hernandez: Stabæk 2-0 Ranheim
Ronald Hernandez played the full 90 minutes in another strong result for Stabæk in Norway, who now rest in 10th place with 33 points in 27 games. It was the club’s 9th clean sheet of the season, earned despite Ranheim holding 50% of the possession and taking nine shots. Hernandez had a 76% pass accuracy rate on the day, out of 42 passes.
Having barely avoided relegation the previous season, Stabæk have started to grow this season and instead look set to be a mid table club. This will be a huge upgrade for Hernandez, who would surely look for a new club if the Norwegians were to be relegated. Having joined from Zamora in 2017, Hernandez is quietly becoming a strong defensive option for Venezuela, for whom he’s recently been a preferred fullback.
Soteldo played close to 180 minutes over Santos’ two wins in the Brazilian top division this week, beating both Bahia and Botafogo to help keep Pelé’s club in third place with a spot in the Copa Libertadores firmly in their grasp. Soteldo managed a brace against Botafogo, scoring in the 68th and 69th minutes.
The first goal against Botafogo came via a series of combination plays by the Santos front line. Soteldo proved the last piece and struck the ball well from near the penalty spot. The second goal was a classic one for the Venezuela, who cut in to the right and curved a beautiful shot into the far corner of the goal from the edge of the box.
Despite not scoring or assisting particularly often, the forward has been a shining player for Santos all season. He has six goals and two assists, but most importantly has won a spot as an instant starter for the club for his work outside of the goal scoring stats.
Soteldo’s future is the topic of heavy speculation within and outside of the Venezuelan footballing world, with many assuming a trip to Europe is in the cards, but the player has made the most of his stay in South America. While his time in Chile brought ups and downs, the player often noted for his short size has become a giant prospect and a must have for la Vinotinto’s match day squad.
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.
The new Vinotinto roster is out and about and Rafael Dudamel’s choices will determine whether or not the national team performs well in the 2019 Copa America and the qualifiers for the 2022 Qatar World Cup (and maybe that World Cup as well). With excitement in the air I figured this would be a great topic to put together a quick review of his choices along with my thoughts on where he went right and where he might have gone wrong, or at least not right in an obvious way.
Here’s the official roster graphic via la Vinotinto’s social media:
Venezuela’s first choice goalkeeper will be, as expected, Wuilker Fariñez. The 20 year old wonder kid already has seven appearances for la Vinotinto (and another 16 for the U20’s) and has recently made a big move to Millonarios in Colombia as he looks to improve his club level resume. He’s a good keeper who will without a doubt be better in the coming years when these tournaments start to take place. While his time at Millonarios has had ups and downs, he’s done well in continental competitions and decent in the league, especially considering he’d never played at such a level before.
Pros and cons aside, Fariñez cemented his spot as starter long ago with his 2017 U20 World Cup run (in which he conceded zero goals in the group stage and eventually won second place) and his run of senior squad appearances toward the end of the last world cup’s qualifiers in which he played Colombia, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay, and only conceded one goal through the run of four games. That one goal was an own goal.
As far as backup keepers goRafael Romois a decent option. Owned by Cyprus legends Apoel, he spent last season playing in the Belgian Second Division, losing in the promotion playoff final. With few other stand out options (the retired classic Dani Hernandez or perhaps Jose Contreras, who is at Chateauroux in Ligue 2), Romo is a decent option that Dudamel will hope to not have to use at all.
Let’s start with center backs. The two starters will likely be Jhon Chancellorand Wilker Ángel. Both have seen national team action before (6 and 17 appearances respectively) and both currently play in the Russian Premier League (with Anzhi and Grozny respectively). Both have had tough, mid to low table seasons recently, with Ángel having the better time playing in an all around better squad. Regardless, both are solid options who played as the CB pairing through several of Venezuela’s last 2018 WC qualifiers. Their current clubs aren’t exactly shining highlights of the football world but la Vinotinto have often gotten their best performances from good players playing for low profile clubs.
The back up CB’s are Nahuel Ferraresi, who plays at Peralada in the Spanish Third Tier on loan from Torque in Uruguay, and Yordan Osorio, who plays at Vitória Guimarães on loan from FC Porto. Both are interesting and young choices with not much experience but plenty of potential. Ferraresi was a key part of the U20 World Cup side and Osorio has seen a couple first team appearances with la Vinotinto as a sub in international friendlies. Neither stand out as strong enough to usurp their elders for a starting spot but neither seem bad as bench options. Alejandro Fuenmayor from the Houston Dynamo may have been another decent youth option but I actually think Dudamel’s got it right here. As for another key but missing center back, Mikel Villanueva, check the MIA portion at the end.
Now on to fullbacks. We have Rolf Feltscher, Luis Mago, Ronald Hernández, and Alexander González. Feltscher, sometimes known more for his hair and looks than his football, is a solid carry over from recent tournaments. The journeyman now calls the LA Galaxy home, though he’s missed much of the season with injury. When healthy he’s a reliable cog and it’s fair to say he’s earned another shot.
Hernandez is a similar story, though he calls Stabæk home at the moment. He was a crucial part of the U20 World Cup side and brings youth to our fullback options without sacrificing experience. His club is struggling a bit right now but his return after some U20 play seems to have brought energy back to the Norwegian side. It’s worth noting that the only of our last four qualifiers that we won (though all were positive results) was Paraguay, which was the only of the four he started.
González is a sort of veteran for la Vinotinto (with 43 appearances), sporting a long history of club play at various levels and nations. He’s played at Young Boy, FC Thun, and was part of the SD Huesca side that promoted the tiny club to La Liga for the first time last season. He’s since moved on to Elche back in Liga 123. He’s a reliable talent and sort of fits into the ranks of Rincon or Rondon in the sense that he’s been there a long time and knows what he’s doing. Hernandez might end up having the upper hand on him but his ability to transfer to between the midfield and defense (he plays as a midfielder at the club much of the time) might earn him playtime.
Luis Mago is a bit of an unknown, in that there’s virtually nothing to find about him anywhere. He plays as a left back at Carabobo FC and, at the age of 23, has no international experience to speak of. He’ll be a bench option for sure and maybe this will be his chance to prove himself. Worst case he’ll apply pressure on Feltscher to stay focused.
Note: This tweet chain, containing a quote from Dudamel himself, suggests that Mago will be used as a back up for Feltscher at LB while Hernandez and Gonzalez take care of RB. It also mentions other options considered for the positions (Bernardo Ańor, Robert Quijada, and Eduin Quero):
Rafael Dudamel has said that the left-back position is a "headache" for many national teams. He commented that those considered for the Venezuelan role include Rolf Feltscher, Rubert Quijada, Luis Mago, "and even" Bernardo Añor and young Eduin Quero. (via: @EnLaCanchaUR). https://t.co/yLZX30uxwh
The midfield may very well be the most interesting section of the new roster. First let’s tackle the two main defensive midfielders named in the squad, Tomas Rincónand Júnior Moreno. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise if both these guys start and play together (mostly depending on formation as Dudamel has tried a variety over the last year). They both have experience and in general are just damn good at what they do. Rincon brings a ton of experience to this team as one of the few Venezuelans in the world that can claim almost ten years of top flight and top league European experience (played for Hamburg in the Bundesliga, Genoa, Juventus, and Torino in Serie A). He’s not a goal scorer in any sense of the word (five league goals in his whole career and zero national team goals) but he’s a perfect midfield bully and his reliable nature will continue to be key even as he ages. Moreno has also been a strong option for DC United this year and has become a key part of the team post-Rooney’s move to MLS. His positive form as of late should be exciting to see transfer over to a Vinotinto side desperate for midfield control.
The next chunk of the roster is a series of expected attacking midfield talents that will be key to la Vinotinto’s success. I consider Sergio Córdova, Jhon Murillo, Rómulo Otero, Yeferson Sotelo, and Darwin Machisto be the members of this group. Córdova and Soteldo are straight from the famous U20 side, where they thrashed nation after nation, while Machis and Murillo are on the young side but slightly more experienced. Otero is by far the veteran of the bunch despite only being 25. His 26 appearances and diverse club experience have made him key to the squad as a starter and a sub in the past.
Córdova, Murillo, and Machis are by far the three I think everyone should look out for. All three contributed greatly to the last chunk of 2018 WC qualifiers (Murillo going as far as to score against Argentina) and have now had more time in Europe to develop their skills. Córdova had a decent debut season for Augsburg in the Bundesliga last year with two goals in 26 appearances (almost all of which were substations. Machis seems to be starting strong at his new home in Udinese, were he’s scored several times in friendlies and the Coppa Italia. Murillo has bounce around club wise but seems to continue to develop his scoring and passing ability in a healthy manner. All three also stand out as midfielders who can easily convert into a striker position, a skill they’ve shown at the club level as of late.
Finally we arrive at the slight eyebrow raisers, of which I refer to Agnel Flores, Ronaldo Lucena, and Eduard Bello. Bello is an interesting pick with no international experience, but the 22 year old made waves when he earned 8 goals and 3 assists in 19 appearances for Chilean club Antofagasta in 2018. He’ll likely have to fight for minutes but the call up could be a strong opportunity for him to make his name known.
Agnel Flores, with 14 national team appearances under his belt already, is a mild but reliable journeyman who’s spent his whole career bouncing around the Venezuelan first division. Currently at Monagas, Flores isn’t the most exciting part of the roster but doesn’t bring any need for concern either.
Lucena is a bit of a question mark for me, especially when paired with the absence of certain other midfield options like Savarino, Peñaranda, or Añor. Lucena was part of the accomplished U20 side but is recently coming off a failed stint at Atletico Nacional that ended with him returning to Venezuela (with Tachira) with only five appearances to show for his efforts. While Bello might be as random a pick as Lucena, Bello has a strong recent club history to back up his call up, while Lucena simply doesn’t. He’ll have a lot to prove assuming he can get solid minutes when competing with the likes of this roster.
So let’s start off the forward discussion with the two obvious choices: Salomón Rondónand Josef Martínez. Rondón has recently made a loan move to Newcastle that will guarantee him more time in the premier league while West Brom try to play their way back up via promotion. The loan will ensure he’s playing top level football as he prepares for the world’s stage but I doubt it actually has much to do with his call up to la Vinotinto. In fact he could be playing in just about any nation or division and still compete for this spot. Rondón is a core piece of this team both as a player and as a symbol. A tough underdog more than anything else, Rondón will help keep experience in a team that is otherwise mostly throwing youth at its challenges. Like Rincón, he’s a classic Venezuelan footballer; tough, bold, and willing to use quick thinking and strength to stay on par with otherwise higher class players.
Martínez, the man lighting MLS on fire, is also one of the least surprising and most logical parts of this list. He plays a fancier game than Rondón but still fits the same mentality when it comes to fighting the good fight and not caring about odds. His club form is out of this world and if he can muster even 50% of it for the national team he could solely earn la Vinotinto multiple glories over the next four years. He’s also on the verge of breaking the MLS season scoring record and has already broken the MLS career hat trick record. At 25, he’ll also provide a good learn term option as he’ll be a peak 29 years old in 2022 while the likes of Rondón will be in their early to mid 30’s.
As far as backup strikers go, Dudamel has brought in Christian Santosand, somewhat surprisingly, Fernando Aristeguieta. Santos is a decent pick and his twelve appearances for the national team reflect his past in this role of “backup striker”. Having spent his career going from respectable stint to respectable stint in the likes of Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Spain, Santos will give Dudamel an escape door if injuries or red cards strike. Santos is currently with injury but is expected to start playing with Deportivo de la Coruña in the next couple weeks.
Fernando Aristeguieta, nickname “el colorado” because he well… looks Irish, makes a sudden comeback appearance in the national team roster as well. At only 26 years of age, Fernando has a lived a well traveled life, playing everywhere from Portugal to Philadelphia and France, his recent move out of Caracas to América de Cali has triggered new interest in the Venezuelan’s career (he started his time at his new club quite dramatically by scoring twice but missing a penalty in a Copa Aguila victory against Leones only days after his signing). A few good substitution appearances for the national team could earn a new level of attention for a man who’s often existed in the respectable shadows of other Venezuelan forwards.
Some Notable MIA’s:
Juanpi– A strong option on the wing and only 24 years of age, Juan Añor is a strong attacking option for la Vinotinto. His absence from the roster could be connected to a few things. One being that Juanpi was part of the 2017-2018 Malaga side that finished last with a 5-5-28 record and is now in Liga 123. That side was properly bad and Añor didn’t help the list of problems. It also seems Añor is trying to leave the club and has had some options but is currently in free fall as he is with Malaga but not playing in their squad in preseason or regular season matches.
Adalberto Peñaranda– Peñaranda is a similar case to Añor in that he spent 17-18 on loan to Malaga and failed to consistently help his side. He was a stand out piece in the U20’s but seems to have trouble at the club level. He is owned by Watford and is with their squad but hasn’t played due to a vague visa issue. If his visa situation gets fixed and he gets some games I could see him finding his way into the roster by next summer.
Yangel Herrera– Herrera is a booming young defensive midfielder from the U20 side that scored the senior team’s winning goal against Paraguay in the final 2018 WC Qualifier. He’s also been a key piece for MLS side New York City FC. He also, however, had a season ending injury earlier this year and would likely not be able to play in 2018, thus his absence from this roster makes sense. If his recovery goes well I see him replacing one of the question marks in the midfield.
Rubert Quijada– Quijada saw action with the national team toward in 2017 and showed promise but finds himself on the losing side of the battle for fullback spots. He was mentioned in the Dudamel tweet above meaning he could still have chance. After over 100 games for Caracas FC, he was loaned out to Qatar and had a strong season, finishing in 4th place with 19 appearances and a goal to his name.
Roberto Rosales – Rosales was also part of that not so great Malaga side. He’s on the older side at 29 but the fullback could by all means stand up for himself against the younger options Dudamel has gathered. The biggest issue is he’s a right back, a position la Vinotinto have many good options in. He’s still at Malaga but moves to Getafe and Betis have been rumored.
Mikel Villanueva– Villanueva’s absence from the defensive list is a strange one, as Dudamel had used him as a first choice CB for much of the later chunk of the 2018 WC Qualifiers. Whatever the reason, his absence will give more room for Chancellor and Angel to dominate the positions and allow younger options a shot. He is owned by Malaga (because Malaga is just the Venezuelan national team I guess) but spent last year at Cadiz and is now on loan at Reus (both in Liga 123). It’s worth noting Reus lost their first league game with Villanueva as a starter, but received a head injury in the first half, meaning his September plans would probably be taken up anyways.
Jefferson Savarino– If I had to pick one missing name that truly shocked me, it would be Savarino. The youngster has 9 goals and 11 assists in 46 games for Real Salt Lake in MLS and has been a shining light for that time through thick and thin. He has national team experience with a few ages groups (only one senior appearance). He’s a smart and selfless player in every sense of those words… and he’s not on the list. I’m not sure what to think of it, but it puts pressure on some of those midfield question marks to prove they should be there in front of him.
Note: A Venezuelan sports news group did a poll with 259 responses asking who’s absence drew the most attention. Savarino won it with 38% of the vote.
¿Cuál ausencia llama más la atención de la Convicatoria de la @SeleVinotinto?
The squad Dudamel used toward the end of the 2018 qualifiers was a solid one, going undefeated against 4 strong opponents (Colombia, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Argentina) and getting 6 points with three clean sheets. It did however have its problems. Solid defense and a little luck was often paired with a sleepy midfield and poor finishing. A little more experience for the youngsters and the adjustments made by Dudamel will hopefully target those weaknesses and make la Vinotinto a serious contender in both the 2019 Copa America and the Qatar qualifiers.
The roster is very much a pre-tournament roster. It’s about 60% obvious choices, 20% confident experimenting, and 20% questionable experimenting. I think it’s a group that can do well in the upcoming friendlies against Colombia and Panama, but I strongly feel some changes should be made before 2019 comes along.
I’m excited for veterans like Rincon and Rondon, but maybe more excited to see how youngsters like Cordova, Farinez, and Murillo hold up. We play Colombia on the 7th of September and Panama on the 11th. Until then, we wait.
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:
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.
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.
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.