Joel Ordóñez is Independiente del Valle’s latest youth academy graduate to break through in Independiente del Valle’s first team after fellow youth academy players Moises Caicedo, William Pacho, Patrickson Delgado and more players earned big transfers in recent years. In other words, Independiente del Valle have a rich history of producing Ecuadorian talent in recent years. In this player report, I will analyze Joel Ordóñez’s playing style, strengths and weaknesses and give a future projection of his career using video and data.
Joel Ordóñez was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador on the 21st of April 2004. He started playing football in the youth academy of Deportivo Azogues before moving to Independiente del Valle’s youth academy. Starting off for the under 12’s, Joel Ordóñez was quickly promoted to the under 14’s in 2017. He moved up to the under 16’s in 2018, playing 57 matches for Independiente del Valle under 16 in two years. He did not play any matches for Independiente del Valle in 2020, because of covid-19, and was promoted to the under 21’s (reserves) almost straight after, only playing 9 matches for the under 18’s.
The Ecuadorian youth international moved to Independiente del Valle’s first team after an impressive performance for Independiente del Valle under 20 in the Copa Libertadores U20, in which the Ecuadorian side was beaten by Peñarol after penalties in the final. Joel Ordóñez looked miles ahead of the rest, physically as well as in terms of defensive ability. Thus far, the 18-year-old defender has made eleven appearances for Independiente del Valle with three of them coming in the Copa Libertadores against clubs with a big reputation (e.g. Brazilian champions Atlético-MG).
The central defender is capable of playing in several systems. For the under 20s, manager Miguel Bravo opted for a traditional possession-based 4-3-3 as you often see it in The Netherlands. Independiente del Valle played in a high defensive line and defended aggressively, putting the opponent under pressure near their own penalty box. Under the stewardship of Renato Paiva (who has now left Independiente del Valle), the first team of Independiente del Valle usually plays in a 3-4-2-1. They have a more cautious approach, but they still have a possession-based style with a medium-high defensive line. In the Ecuadorian Liga Pro, Ordóñez mostly played as a left central defender in a back three. He played as a right central defender against Atlético-MG and América-MG, while also playing as a left central defender against Deportes Tolima. For the under 20s in the Copa Libertadores, Ordóñez always played as a right central defender in a four at the back.
Let’s start off by writing about his on the ball ability. Joel Ordóñez is not an adventurous passer, not taking many risks. However, the Ecuadorian youngster’s potential to be a ball-playing central defender should not be underlooked. Why? I will go into that later. Ordóñez always looks secure and comfortable on the ball. Playing as one of the three central defenders, Ordóñez often keeps it simple and passes it to the right wing-back of Independiente del Valle. He puts the right power on the ball, but occasionally his passes over the ground can be slightly bouncy, making it harder for his teammate (William Vargas) to control the ball. In a four at the back, Ordóñez usually passed it short to Marco Angulo (defensive midfielder). Most of his short passes are played near the halfway line, especially in matches where Independiente del Valle is the stronger side.
Playing as a left central defender, Ordóñez would naturally use his left foot more often. However, he does not seem to use his left foot that often, making me question his ability on his left foot. In the few moments in which he used his left foot, it seemed fine and not a clear weakness. It is certainly something to look out for in the near future, though.
His long passes are a little bit more inconsistent. Looking at his long passing technique, he sometimes seems to slice the ball instead of connecting with it properly, inevitably leading to the loss of possession. However, I do think he also has potential in this area. Joel Ordóñez shows that he can play long, diagonal passes multiple times a match. He has good vision and is capable of spotting his teammates in space. Jhoanner Chavez, usually the left wing-back of Independiente del Valle, often attacks the space or provides width for the Ecuadorian side, creating space for himself to receive the pass. Ordóñez does well to spot this and often tries to play a long, diagonal pass to the left-back.
There is also a difference between when Ordóñez gets put under pressure and when he has all the time to play a long pass. However, even when he has all the time in the world, he sometimes slices the ball instead of connecting with it properly. His inconsistency with his long passing is Ordóñez’s biggest weakness, which can only be improved with a lot of practising and gaining experience. In the clips down below, you can see that Joel Ordóñez has good vision and that he manages to spot his teammates in space pretty well, but that his long passing is quite inconsistent.
But how does he perform when being put under pressure? I think he always does relatively well to stay composed, but there are two different scenario’s here:
Situation 1 – It often occurs that Joel Ordóñez is close to his own byline, having the ball at his feet while running towards the byline. There is one key aspect that Ordóñez can improve on in those situations. He sometimes stays too composed, simply passing the ball over the sideline, giving away a throw-in. In other situations, he fails to keep the ball in play when clearing it. In both situations, he should either try to win the throw-in by passing it onto the opponent who will deflect the ball out of play or he should simply clear the ball towards the striker if the first option is not an option. Most of these actions happen near Independiente del Valle’s byline.
Situation 2 – When Joel Ordóñez receives the ball under pressure with his face towards the opposition’s half, he often finds a solution. The Ecuadorian always keeps his composure in these situations and manages to find a teammate in space. As mentioned before, his short passing is secure and consistent, not giving away many balls near his own half. Most of these situations happen near the halfway line.
Joel Ordóñez’s receiving skills under pressure are quite good. He often manages to keep the ball close to him on his first touch and does not need too many touches to control the ball. The Ecuadorian sometimes likes to step into midfield with the ball at his feet. He has the potential to be really aggressive with his ball-carrying into the midfield, but for now, he does not do this too often. Ordóñez only proves that he is capable of carrying the ball forward aggressively when he gets chased by an opponent while carrying the ball forward. Thanks to the power in his legs, he is capable of storming away from his opponent. In terms of defensive headers, Ordóñez sometimes does not seem to look where he needs to pass before receiving the ball. This occasionally leads to possession loss, while he could have recycled possession quite easily.
Adapting to a higher level, I think that Joel Ordóñez is still a bit passive on the ball sometimes. However, he definitely has shown glimpses of his attacking mindset, joining the attack and making runs inside the channel. I have seen him doing this a couple times now for Independiente del Valle and think it is great. By doing this, he sometimes creates a numerical superiority on the wing as Independiente del Valle plays without traditional wingers, with Sornoza often playing in an inside role and not providing width. It’s often William Vargas who has to run up and down the right wing to provide width for Independiente del Valle and the right wing-back is not capable of creating much danger in a 1v2, so it is often good that Ordóñez makes those runs to support Independiente del Valle’s attack. In the image down below, you can see an example of this.
But why do I think that he has the potential to become a ball-playing central defender? To conclude this section about his ability on the ball, I will make a quick summary of his strengths and weaknesses on the ball:
- His short passing is secure and consistent
- He is usually composed under pressure
- His long passing technique is inconsistent as he sometimes slices the ball and hits it under the ball too much.
- His vision when playing long passes is really good, he spots players that are attacking space well
So, is his long passing technique trainable? Yes! With a lot of work on his consistency and technique, his long passing could become better resulting in less inaccurate long passes and more opportunities for his teammates. It is more important that he has that natural vision to play passes that not all central defenders can pull off. Of course, he will not become a ball-playing defender like Jurriën Timber, but he is certainly good enough on the ball to play in a heavy possession-based side. Gaining experience in such a playing style would also improve his passing and vision a lot.
Beneath, you can see all four key passes of Joel Ordóñez that you can find on WyScout. Only his matches with the first team and the U20 at the Copa Libertadores are online.
Moving on to his defensive ability, it is important to give an overview of his athletic ability. Standing at 1.85 – 1.90 meters with a muscular build, Joel Ordóñez is a physically imposing defender. He generates a lot of power from his legs, which he can use in the ground duels, but also in aerial duels. The Ecuadorian youngster has great athleticism and mobility for someone of his frame, changing directions quickly and having a lot of speed over both short and long distances. He is agile and keeps his balance well in ground duels, not being shrugged off in the duels that easily. That’s why it was also interesting to see him battle in 1v1 duels with Atlético-MG veteran Hulk, who is obviously known for his strength.
Here is a short clip to give an indication of his pace. Ordóñez is the player that intercepts the pass and who makes an impressive sprint toward the opposition’s half:
Joel Ordóñez is a very proactive defender, often stepping out of the defensive line and defending high up the pitch on the opposition’s half. When his opponent receives the ball with his back toward Independiente del Valle’s goal in that area, Ordóñez often uses his physicality to force his opponent backwards while also trying to not make a foul. Five of his six fouls in the Copa Libertadores this season came from similar duels. Personally, I think Ordóñez did well in most of these duels, but the referee gave free-kicks to the opposition quite easily in four out of the six fouls.
When getting forced out wide on the opposition’s half, Ordóñez’s timing of stepping up is excellent. He is capable of getting in front of his opponent or forcing his opponent backwards by exercising a lot of pressure on the opponent. The Ecuadorian is confident defending far from his own goal and has good defensive awareness. Here are two examples from the match against Atlético-MG.
When the opponent already has possession near Independiente del Valle’s half, while Independiente del Valle doesn’t have numbers back and still defends in a high defensive line, Joel Ordóñez sometimes struggles with his decision-making. There are moments in which he should stay in the defensive line and let his team regroup without giving away a chance on the counter-attack. He often does well in these moments, but in high-intensity games, he sometimes seems to not make the best choices in these particular situations.
An example can be found in the video down below, there was one similar moment in the same match but I could not find a clip of it:
Rarely, Independiente del Valle were forced to defend in a low block. Ordóñez still naturally liked to step out of the defensive line and reads the game really well in those situations, while also timing his interception excellently. His confidence and power are what really stand out in those situations. The 18-year-old has the ability to push opponents off the ball and it is sometimes quite remarkable to think that he is only 18 years old, as he certainly does not play that way.
Playing in a back three as a wide central defender, Ordónez is often forced to get into isolated 1v1 duels with the opposition’s winger as Independiente del Valle’s right wing-back (Vargas) is not always on time to track back. This means that Ordóñez also gets forced out wide quite often, also getting into a 1v2 situation with one of the opposition’s midfielders moving out wide and the player in possession starting out wide but carrying the ball inside. The Ecuadorian defender, especially in high-intensity games like the one against Atlético-MG, had to show quick decision-making and in these particular situations, he constantly did well.
In the isolated 1v1 duels, Ordóñez does well to look at the ball, he keeps the right distance and only commits when he knows that he certainly wins back the ball. In the sporadic moments that he gets dribbled past, Ordóñez is persistent enough to get back into the duel using his good acceleration and speed. Occasionally, the Ecuadorian defender’s body shape is not ideal, leaving one side quite open while also not positioning his body in a certain way that he can still turn that way. However, during the moments when his opponent tries to get past him on that side, he often is able to stick out his leg and still intercepts the ball in most situations. I still think that he needs to work on that because it would be easier if he adjusted his body positioning to an extent where he is capable of turning each way.
Playing in a back three as a wide central defender also means that opponents often try to play through passes down the line in between the right/left wing-back and Ordóñez. The Ecuadorian defender always defends these situations well and can rely on his athleticism and physicality in these situations. Joel Ordóñez reads the game well in situations like this and is always one step ahead of the opponent, not getting in trouble with through passes down the wing.
Joel Ordóñez has an excellent work rate and plays with great determination. He always puts his life on the line and shows bravery and passion. The Ecuadorian fights for his badge. In aerial duels, Ordóñez is capable of generating a lot of power from his legs, towering above the rest and clearing a lot of crosses from dead-ball situations. The youngster has the potential to become a real threat from attacking set-pieces if he can improve his heading accuracy. He also has a past of scoring goals at a youth level.
I have said it before and I will say it again, I would love to see Joel Ordóñez playing for Ajax in the near future. The Ecuadorian has the current level to be a regular starter for Jong Ajax, while also being a back-up for Jurriën Timber (and Devyne Rensch or Edson Álvarez) in the Eredivisie games against lower-table sides. I would love Ajax to integrate him into Ajax’s first team slowly and allow him to work on his minor weaknesses. The youngster has the potential to become a starter for a European club in the top 5 leagues that battles for a place in the Champions League.
The aspects that Joel Ordóñez needs to improve on are his long passing, defensive heading and decision-making during counter-attacks of the opponent when it is better to regroup instead of stepping up. Ordóñez, for someone that is 1.85 – 1.90 meters tall, has great athleticism while also possessing an excellent physical ability. He is secure with his short-range passing, has a decent technique and is composed under pressure. The Ecuadorian is a proactive defender and times his interceptions really well. He is very quick, too.
The Ecuadorian youngster could be an amazing low risk – high reward signing for any of the following teams: Ajax, PSV, Club Brugge and Benfica. He should be monitored accordingly and even top 5 league teams should already be attentive to his transfer status.