Motagua – Match Report Vs. Seattle Sounders (17/02/2022)

Match Summary:

The Seattle Sounders and Motagua played to a 0-0 draw behind closed doors in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League tie. Seattle saw more of the ball but was rarely able to break Motagua down. Motagua, on the other hand, created a lot more chances with their limited possession. Seattle departed from the 3 at the back formation they played in 2021, instead opting for a fairly conventional 4-2-3-1. Motagua lined up in a nominal 3-4-2-1 but their overlapping fullbacks (more on that later) meant that it ended up being more of a 4-2-3-1. A big reason for Motagua’s success was the excellent play of some of their young defensive players. This article focuses on them. 

Denil Maldonado 

Player Profile:

  • Nationality: Honduran 
  • Age: 23
  • Date of Birth: 26/05/1998
  • Current Club: Motagua 
  • Career: Motagua, CF Pachuca, CD Everton, Motagua 
  • Position: Centre Back
  • Preferred FootRight

Maldonado has already spent time abroad at higher levels both on a permanent transfer and on loans (which is pretty common for top young players in Honduras). Playing directly against Raul Ruidiaz and Nicolas Lodeiro, two of MLS’ top attacking players, would be a big test of his readiness to take the next step. I have to say, he passed this particular test with flying colours.

The Honduran played in the middle of a back 3, generally covering for defensive players who defended more aggressively. He was only really beaten once when he was isolated 1v1 against Jordan Morris. However, he quickly recovered from that moment and made several good tackles and defensive plays against Ruidiaz and Lodeiro. He showed great positional awareness to mop up loose balls, cover for out-of-position teammates, and time his interventions well. Maldonaldo also showed good strength in the air though, it must be said, Seattle is not the biggest of teams. At 6 feet tall Maldonado is not a giant by centre-back standards but he had enough strength to regularly get the better of Seattle defenders.

With the ball at his feet, Maldonado looked comfortable, picking out a number of accurate long-range passes. However, he did get into trouble on one occasion when he was under pressure. His poor clearance almost led to a big chance against. Seattle mostly sat in a mid-block and didn’t put a lot of pressure on Motagua’s centre-backs. If I watch him again in the future it would be interesting to see what he can do against physically stronger opposing players and what he can do against a team that puts him under more pressure. 

Rating – A1

This performance made it clear that Maldonaldo can play at a much higher level than the Honduran league. He already has spent seasons on loan in the Chilean and Mexican top flights but the question is if any team will be willing to meet Motagua’s asking price. 

Jonathan Nunez

Player Profile:

  • Nationality: Honduran
  • Age: 20
  • Date of Birth: 26/11/2001
  • Current Club: Motagua 
  • Career: Motagua 
  • Position: Centre Midfielder 
  • Preferred Foot: Right 

Though Nunez has played quite a bit of his young career as a centre-back he played this game as a defensive midfielder. He mostly sat deep, covering for players who went forward but did occasionally burst forwards with the ball. Nunez’s performance was a bit of a mixed bag. He had some good moments defensively, breaking up Seattle attacks in front of the backline. But he didn’t necessarily win possession. He interrupted Seattle attacks but he usually kicked the ball out of play or just cleared it.

In general, his passing looked a bit clumsy. Many of his more ambitious passes were overhit or behind teammates. Otherwise, he generally chose to play it short and retain possession. He had one really good progressive pass that split Seattle’s midfield line so the ability is there but he needs to become more consistent with his passing. He had one Nunez did not see a huge amount of the ball overall because Motagua reacted to Seattle’s mid-block by doing most of their ball progression through their centre-backs.

When the ball did come to him, Nunez’s first touch was often a bit heavy but once got the ball under control he looked pretty good carrying the ball. He was able to outwit Seattle midfielders with quick turns and changes of direction. He also did a good job of carrying the ball upfield, taking his space when he was presented with it. Nunez is not the biggest player but he didn’t look overawed in physical duels. He was able to push Seattle players off the ball with well-timed shoulder charges. However, every Seattle attacking player was about the same size as him. So if I watch him again in the future it will be interesting to see how he performs against players that are bigger than him. That said though, he could stand to play with more intensity. He often looked a bit disinterested when the ball was away from him. 

Rating – A2

Nunez showed some clear areas for improvement. But he also showed some areas of real strength. Considering he was playing against a reasonably high level of opposition and is only 20 I think the fact that he was able to show those strengths is a good indicator that he can reach a higher level. He will definitely have to improve his areas of weakness if he is to take the next step but he has a lot of time to do that. 

Wesley Decas

  • Nationality: Honduran
  • Age: 22
  • Date of Birth: 11/08/1999
  • Current Club: Motagua 
  • Career: FC Moravia, FC Juarez, Futbol Consultants Desamparados, Nacional, Atlanta United II, Motagua
  • Position: Centre Back
  • Preferred Foot: Left

Decas played on the left side of the back three. He frequently made overlapping runs on the left flank and on some occasions could even be seen pressing opposition defenders. Defensively he looked solid, nobody ever really got the better of him in 1v1 situations. Because of his wide centre-back role, he was not called upon to win headers as much as Maldonaldo but he did win the only defensive aerial duel he contested. He mostly looked comfortable with the ball at his feet, though he is extremely left-footed. I don’t think I saw him take a touch with his right foot the entire match.

Unquestionably the thing that stood out most about Decas’ game was his passing ability. He was able to frequently play accurate long-range passes to the Motagua forward line. Because he made so many forward runs, Decas was able to show what he could do under pressure. He did a pretty good job of playing forwards passes under pressure, though when he got into more advanced positions he misplaced more of his passes (to be fair, lacking end product in the final 3rd is a pretty acceptable weakness for a centre-back). His first touch in attacking positions was also a bit heavy at times when he was receiving the ball under pressure in attacking situations.

Although he was solid defensively overall there were a couple of slightly awkward moments. At one point he whiffed on a headed clearance while under minimal pressure and there was also a moment when he slipped. So concentration may be an area for improvement for him. He also showed good pace and acceleration, which allowed him to play his unique role effectively. He has very long legs which allow him to take long strides and cover a lot of ground with relatively little effort. Decas is 6’1 which is pretty standard height for a centre back and he has quite a lanky build. 

Rating A2:

Decas was not quite as brilliant as Maldonado but he still showed a lot of strong skills against a high-level opponent. He has played abroad before, bouncing around on loan a lot. At 22 he seems to be rounding into a solid player who could probably play at a higher level than the Honduran league. His status as a foreign player might make it difficult for MLS or Liga MX teams to take a chance on him but perhaps an intermediate step to a smaller league in Europe or somewhere in Asia would be a good move for him.  

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