Leonardo Rivas – Player Report

The second part of the search for talent in Paraguay is about Leonardo Rivas from Cerro Porteño. The youngster recently conquered a place in the starting line-up of Cerro Porteño and has been an undisputed starter since. The previous part was about Guarani player Roberto Fernandez.

Player profile:

  • Nationality: Paraguayan
  • Age: 20
  • Date of birth: 06/12/2001
  • Current club: Cerro Porteño
  • Career: Cerro Porteño
  • Position: Left-Back
  • Preferred foot: Left

Cerro Porteño is a club with a rich history in Paraguay having won the second-most titles in Paraguay (34). Under the stewardship of Francisco Arce, they won the league title (Clausura) this season after a spectacular draw with Guarani on the last day of the season. This season, the Paraguayan club often opt for a possession-based style of play, but they can also play in a more direct manner with a lot of vertical passes. Arce’s side has various ways of building up – one of them being with three central defenders when Rafael Carrascal drops deep between, or next to, the central defenders.

Leonardo Rivas is then allowed to push high up the pitch while providing width for the Paraguayan club. The left-back does not have any problems with his first touch when he receives powerful passes. He sporadically does not have a good first touch, which happened against weaker sides and not in the most important matches. This could be an indication of lapses of concentration against weaker sides, but I don’t think that this is the case. Rivas is a player that seems very determined to succeed and he usually plays with a lot of concentration, which can be seen in the situations where he coaches his teammates, closes gaps and tracks back.

The Paraguayan left-back sometimes takes up a position on his own half when Cerro Porteño is building it out from the back, but this does not happen that often as Rafael Carrascal drops deep a lot. In the image down below you can see an example of that.

Leonardo Rivas his passing is good. Especially when being put under pressure and not having a lot of time on the ball (like in the decisive match against Guarani), he showed his on the ball ability. He has good technique and likes to play first-time passes. Rivas rarely mishits his first-time passes and often continues his run after playing a pass into midfield. During the times that Cerro Porteño generally gets more time on the ball, Rivas is much more cautious and he does not take many risks in his passing. This is also because Cerro Porteño likes to build up through the middle of the pitch. Rivas rarely plays cross passes, but when he does he strikes them well and proves to have a good kicking technique. The 20-year-old only rarely uses his right foot, he needs to be more comfortable using his right foot.

The Paraguayan left-back does not often take on his opponents, as said before he is quite cautious when Cerro Porteño are in possession of the ball and he does not like to take risks. When taking on his opponent, he often tries to get past his opponent on the outside. He is not rapid on the first meters, his acceleration is sufficient for now but should be worked on if he wants to play in a more-demanding league. Over a longer distance, he sometimes struggles to make overlapping runs when Claudio Aquino is carrying the ball forward (not at full speed). In these situations, he only manages to just overtake Aquino and he can not speed up even more.

When Cerro Porteño progresses the ball further up the pitch and has possession in the midfield third, Leonardo Rivas sometimes makes runs in behind. The left-back is very inconsistent in spotting space. For example, in the image down below you can see that Claudio Aquino tucked inside and came short to receive the ball, dragging Nacional’s right-back with him. This opened up space. Leonardo Rivas is cautious and does not seem to recognize the space in behind, even though Rafael Carrascal, the player in possession, is more than capable of playing those over the top through passes.

In the second example, you can see that Leonardo Rivas does make a run in behind, but also that it is more clear that there is a lot of space for Leonardo Rivas. He does well to recognize that space, but it was easier to recognize the space in the second example than in the first example.

In the second example that was mentioned above, Leonardo Rivas did not receive the ball. However, when the 20-year-old does receive the ball in this area he nearly always creates danger in front of the opponent’s goal. The Paraguayan does not take too much time on the ball, looks over the ball before crossing and picks out the right player. Rivas has good vision and only sporadically puts in a cross without looking over the ball first. He only puts in a cross without looking over the ball first when he needs to sprint full speed to keep the ball in play.

Leonardo Rivas likes to play cut-back crosses when he is close to the byline, but when he puts in a cross from a slightly deeper area he likes to curl the ball between the opponent’s goalkeeper and defenders. He does not always succeed in doing so, as he sometimes misses the target. I would say that he gets his crosses into good areas around 60% of the time. Rivas sometimes struggles to get the cross over the first defender in the box and sometimes he puts it behind the striker.

Usually, he strikes the ball really well though and I am excited to see him being encouraged to make more runs in behind. His crossing technique is excellent and he could become really good at putting in crosses. In the example down below, you can see one of the two assists Rivas gave (in 7 league matches). He manages to put the ball between the goalkeeper and defenders and Mauro Boselli gets the ball on a plate and scores the 2-0 for Cerro Porteño. His determination and passion for the sport come back here as well in his celebrations.

Defensively, Leonardo Rivas is a very determined and cautious player. The Paraguayan defender likes to stay in the defensive line and nearly always stays close to left central defender Alexis Duarte. This was the right decision in a lot of situations, but sometimes he should step up or close the gap towards his opponent. Rivas did very well to coach his teammates to cover his opponent when he dropped deep and wanted to stay in the defensive line. He communicated this successfully every time. In South American football, it happens often that full-backs get dragged out wide often and follow their opponent around.

However, Leonardo Rivas does not do this and this makes him an a-typical left-back. When the tempo in the match is higher, Rivas steps up more often and he does not execute this perfectly sometimes. It does not happen often at all, but in a handful of situations, he did not defend well when stepping up. In the video down below, you can see that Rivas steps up but gets dribbled past as his opponent puts his body between Rivas and the ball. In this situation, he should have kept his opponent in front of him.

Leonardo Rivas is the player who passes the ball back to Alexis Duarte (LCB) after the referee awards the free-kick to Guarani

There are also many situations in which his anticipation is a lot better. First of all, when his opponent receives an aerial pass in the final third, Rivas does not blindly run towards his opponent but he keeps his distance and cuts the passing lane. It often happened that his opponent played a first-time pass after receiving an aerial pass, but Rivas managed to cut the passing lanes well and he intercepted the pass. The Paraguayan defender likes to stay on his feet when defending, it rarely happens that he attempts to recover possession by slide tackling his opponent. When he does attempt a slide tackle, he manages to time it well and intercepts the ball.

In the video down below, you can see a situation in which Leonardo Rivas showed his good anticipation. He spots that the pass to Otalvaro is not powerful enough and reacts quicker than the experienced Colombian. Rivas is quicker at the ball and intercepts the pass. After intercepting the pass, you can also see that he refuses to use his right foot for a simple pass which makes it harder for him to reach his teammate.

Leonardo Rivas does not often get into the 1v1 duels with his opponent and the stats underline this. Rivas only gets into 4.04 defensive duels per 90 minutes. When he does get into the 1v1 duels with the opposition’s winger, he likes to keep distance and he has a neutral stance, not forcing his opponent out wide or to the inside. As in other situations, he is cautious and does not want to commit. This leads to Rivas being forced backwards, and even though I do not necessarily think that Rivas defends badly, I think that he could get more out of it if he plays with a bit more bravery.

In the video down below it is seen that quick winger Matias Segovia forces Leonardo Rivas backwards and that he manages to get a shot away. I think that Rivas did not defend badly in this situation as Segovia only had a small chance at scoring from there. However, his body position was not ideal as he knew (should have known) Segovia likes to cut inside to his stronger left foot. Now he needed to turn first which were the milliseconds that Rivas came short to block the shot.

The Paraguayan left-back was very attentive to the defensive structure of Cerro Porteño. At all times he was scanning and looking if he needed to close any gaps or adapt his positioning. This was very important for Cerro Porteño, as Alexis Duarte is an aggressive defender who likes to step up, and while Duarte is a very good defender, it sometimes happens that the ball gets headed through or passed through, like in the video down below.

Leonardo Rivas notices this and immediately comes inside. This situation could have ended very badly if Derlis Gonzalez would have looked up, but Rivas defended well to close the gap towards Gonzalez and not allow him to get a shot away.

As mentioned before in this player report, Leonardo Rivas is very concentrated throughout the match and he always coaches his teammates. He is also scanning at all times and generally cuts the passing lanes well. It very rarely happens that he does not cut the passing lanes well. Rivas was good at noticing runs from his opponent and either tracking his run or cutting the passing lane. The latter happened in the video down below, in which Rivas coaches his teammate that he needs to close the gap towards Otalvaro before scanning and noticing the run of the Olimpia attacker. The Olimpia attacker stops his run after he notices that Rivas cuts the passing lane and Cerro Porteño manages to recover possession.

If Leonardo Rivas decided to close the gap towards Otalvaro, the Olimpia attacker would have had space on the right flank and time to put a cross into the box if Otalvaro’s pass was right.

The last aspect that I will discuss in this player report is his defensive ability when dealing with crosses. In 9 games he only contested 3 aerial duels in his own penalty area. This is mainly because of his habits when dealing with crosses. Leonardo Rivas tracks the run of his opponent and uses his arms or body to block the movement of his opponent. Rivas his stamina is good.

Future projections:

Leonardo Rivas is already a really good left-back for the Paraguayan league, but he has the potential to become a good left-back in Europe and I think he can follow the footsteps of Santiago Arzamendia, who deserved a move to Cadiz FC after impressing at Cerro Porteño for a few years. The 20-year-old Rivas can improve on some aspects, which are mentioned here:

  • he should take risks in possession more often, as he has good passing technique
  • he needs to learn to use his right foot which would allow him to not only go on the outside, but also carry the ball inside and play a forward pass instead of choosing for a pass backwards with his left foot
  • he needs to be quicker over a long distance and better acceleration
  • he needs to recognize space better in some occasions
  • he needs to work on his consistency with his crossing, especially as his technique is really good
  • he should recognize the situations in which he can step up and keep his opponent in front of him when doing this
  • he needs to adjust his stance in the 1v1 duels depending on the opponent he comes up against

All of these aspects are trainable, except for maybe the attacking vision (recognizing space). As he only played 15 matches for the first team of Cerro Porteño, he has plenty of time to improve and I am confident that he will make it in Europe in the future. He has a lot of talent and showed a lot of determination, which makes me think that he will do what it takes to work on his ‘weaknesses’ to become an even better left-back.

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