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Thomas Harrison writes a detailed scout report about Chivas’ intelligent midfielder, Orbelín Pineda.
Orbelín Pineda is a 19-year-old central midfielder, currently playing for Mexican giants Chivas, of Guadalajara. Born in Mexico City, Orbelín, like his brother Onay who plays in Mexico’s second division, developed through the Querétaro youth academy. His debut for Los Gallos Blancos came in Copa MX in January 2014, and later that year he appeared for the first time in a Liga MX game.
Pineda quickly impressed and became a permanent fixture in the Querétaro midfield during the 2014-15 season, often outperforming the biggest name to ever play for Querétaro, Ronaldinho. The young Mexican scored 5 goals in 29 league appearances last season and was a crucial part of Querétaro’s run to the Liga MX final in the Clausura (2nd half of the season). Unfortunately, he couldn’t help his side win their first ever Liga MX title though, as they lost 5-3 on aggregate to Santos Laguna.
After a season and a half in Querétaro’s first team, 11-time Mexican league winners Chivas came in for Pineda in the recent winter transfer window in Mexico and were able to complete one of the biggest transfers of the window. The fee was undisclosed, but according to Chivas boss Jorge Vergara, it took “mucho dinero” (a lot of money) to bring in Pineda from Querétaro.
Chivas have been struggling in recent years, and with just two wins in the Clausura, these struggles show no sign of ending soon, but Pineda has been one of the bright sparks of recent times.
Part of the 2015 U-20 World Cup squad, Orbelín recently received his first ever senior national team call-up, and may make his debut in two upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Canada.
Able to play as a deep-lying, roaming or more advanced playmaker, Pineda has regularly played as the more advanced of the two in a 4-2-3-1 formation. I’ve often thought that his talents would be better suited to a number ten role, but thus far in his career he’s been preferred in a deeper role.
With the ability to execute key passes and glide past defenders, the 19-year-old is superb technically. However, the most impressive aspect of Orbelín’s game is the mental side.
A fantastic reader of the game, Pineda can spot incisive through balls and is able to find space on the pitch by moving into the channels between defenders. Pineda is also extremely mature for his age, which has shown since he’s moved to Chivas. Despite his new side experiencing somewhat of a crisis, and fans getting on the backs of many Chivas players, Pineda’s kept a cool head and shown his qualities on the pitch. Whilst this isn’t the strongest Chivas squad, it’s still very impressive that the best player for one of Mexico’s giants recently has been a teenager.
He’s able to chip in with a few goals as well. 10 goals in 54 games is a pretty good record for a player that normally operates in a fairly deep, and more creative role.
Physically, there are positive and negative aspects of Orbelín. The Chivas midfielder possesses great pace, which helps him to beat defenders, but at just 5’6”/168cm, he isn’t the strongest player. Whilst he’s able to get away with this lack of strength in Mexico, he could struggle to perform effectively at the heart of the midfield in a more physically demanding league. However, his intelligence and off the ball movement may make up for the lack of strength.
Undoubtedly the largest weakness of Pineda’s game is defensively. Playing as part of the two in a 4-2-3-1 demands plenty of work defensively and whilst Orbelín isn’t lazy, he isn’t a natural ball winner. The defensive side of the game is something he needs to work on if he’s going to continue to play in a deep role.
In the immediate future, Orbelín Pineda needs to keep up his form and try to help his team, Chivas, find some form. Whilst the Guadalajara side have been saved from a relegation battle this season due to the dismal performance of newly promoted Dorados, they are set to face one next season with Mexico’s average points relegation system. The system relegates the team with the lowest points per game average over the last three seasons at the end of each campaign. Chivas currently sit 17th out of 18 in this table.
Long term, Pineda’s future may lie in Europe, the dream of most young Mexican footballers. There were reports of interest from Porto, a side who have purchased many Mexicans recently, and a club in Germany when Pineda made the move to Chivas, but it’s unclear whether or not there was a formal offer from Europe on the table.
For the time being, despite Chivas’ struggles, the move to Guadalajara doesn’t look too bad for Orbelín. He’s quickly established himself as one of their key players and has earnt a Mexico call-up in the process. Continue to shine in Liga MX and it won’t be long before the intelligent midfielder is on his way to the other side of the Atlantic.
Written by Thomas Harrison