Per Aspera Ad Astra

Vélez in English columna

@VelezinEnglish is back after the win against Estudiantes.

If you weren't following it, it's been a quiet midseason break in la Villa Olímpica. There has been only one signing and two players returning from loans (And one of them has been loaned again). No starting player left, which is great. The friendly game against Newell's showed a team that was a bit out of syncro, but showed the same core principles of Heinzeball with ugly, the bad and the good stuff we have been accustomed to see last year. In the list of called up players for the Estudiantes game, the only news was the inclusion of Bazán instead of Ramis (among some forced absences).

The start to the game was not good: The field was a sandlot, the heat was unbearable, there were a lot of passes from Vélez players that went nowhere near other Vélez players and there were many fouls committed by Vélez players near the penalty area. It's not that Vélez has issues conceding from set pieces, it's more that the team gives away lots of set pieces. Vélez had to pay in Quilmes for that undesirable trait by conceding the first goal and then was bailed out by a very good save from Hoyos. El Fortín by then had started to find ways to move the ball around Estudiantes, but got a leveller near halftime against the flow of game: After a bad Gata Fernández pass, Vélez quickly set off for the counter, Robertone played a direct pass to Vargas who was in acres of space. El Monito got into the penalty box, got easily rid of a defender and fired a low shot close to Andujar's near post.

That set the tone for the second half: It was a Heinzeball exhibition (Though the fouling didn't stop). The main attraction of the show was El Monito Vargas: in some games I complained about him being held aside to the wilderness of the sideline, in Quilmes took a more central position, tormenting the poor souls of Estudiantes defenders, dribbling around them, creating odd passing angles to find teammates better positioned and generally being the best player on the field. He wasn't alone. Gímenez has lots of class, a great passing range an excellent overall technique, but above all his biggest asset is a positional and spatial awareness that allows him to bypass opposition pressure in any conceivable way. Nico Domínguez never stops, he seems to be everywhere, but he's only always in the right place at the right time no matter if it is to intercept a pass, offer himself as an option to receive the ball or appear in the box to finish a move. Robertone deserves praise too, he does not really appear to have consistency to his game, but is always committed to pressing without the ball and appears in key moments scoring goals and turning games around, like his magnificent curler in this game. Cufré and De La Fuente gave solid defensive performances and were helpful in stretching opposition defence when going forward.

Not everything was perfect: Hoyos had some shaky moments when playing the ball with his feet, Albertengo was a handful and got the better of the pair of central defenders, the awkward mobility and lack of finesse makes Salinas an odd fit for the team (Despite the good assist for Robertone's goal) and it seems Bouzat can't get a goal even if he bought it (I root for him and I will be really happy for him when he scores). However, there's an optimistic side to every weakness listed above: Hoyos had a good overall game, Abram will be back to shore up the defence, Leandro Fernández should be available and Bouzat's industry and graft makes him a useful player for the coach despite his lack of production.

As I said above, it wasn't perfect but it was really good, specially considering the struggles this team had playing away the first half of the season. Also, it's a valuable win as the team has a couple of difficult matches coming and the confidence and calmness this result brings only can be positive. With the team sitting comfortably in Copa Sudamericana places a good run could put the team in Copa Libertadores places. We have been through some tough times as fans but the work done lately has given us a lot reasons to believe.

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