Sid, Ravi and I all nominated players for this week. Certainly not much doubt about the #1 Up!
Hernán Pérez: There's an EPM story on the "Paraguayan Dynamo" (h/t Sid) in today's edition. Suffice it to say the Villarreal USA braintrust, such as it is, has been pleading for more playing time for Hernán for some time now; he needs to finish more chances off (he could have had three goals against Racing Santander) but he is providing an attacking threat, something we've sorely missed.
Cristián Zapata: the Colombian has taken time to settle in, but he's played well the last couple of games at both right back and center back. He's been very assured and has looked far more comfortable than earlier this season. Also, while he still needs to learn how to put headers on target, it's good to see we are trying to use him as an aerial option on corners.
José Manuel Catalá: It's taken a long time for him to recover from his knee injury, but he played all 90 minutes against Racing and Málaga and looked very comfortable. Not only did he defend far better than Joan Oriol had in his recent matches, Catalá also provided some incisiveness going forward. The only real blemish on his sheet was the failure to close down Racing in the last thirty seconds of the match, but he wasn't alone in that error.
Honorable mention: Carlos Marchena. He played in the doble pivote for the first 60 minutes or so against Racing and did a good job--it was his fine through ball that nearly resulted in our first goal, and he didn't commit the sort of stupid fouls he had done in his recent appearances.
We had a lot more nominations for these three positions.
Rubén Cani: after playing very well the first couple of games under Lotina, he's fallen off the depth chart. Why?
Nilmar: the Brazilian heard it from the crowd at El Madrigal on Sunday when he was subbed--he just isn't providing enough of a threat. He hasn't had much luck, for sure--his one moment of excellence, a shot from the top of a box that was headed for the top corner of the net, was brilliantly saved by the keeper--but a player of his talent and price tag should be creating more chances.
He's been too easily knocked off the ball, and often seems flatfooted or a half-a-step slow when a pass is played to him inside the box. With only four goals in the season and none in over a month, it's time for him to produce!
"el mister" Lotina: I could have nominated Gonzalo Castellani here, I suppose, but the reality is Lotina deserves the "down" accolade this week for putting Castellani in the game at all. As several have pointed out, Villarreal has proven time and time again that they cannot defend a lead by removing any attacking threat, dumping the ball to midfield and regrouping. So why did Lotina do that this time?
I understand a defensive substitution to protect a lead, but eviscerating your ability to control the ball and waste precious seconds in injury time, which is what happened here, was simply asking for trouble.
Honorable mention: Castellani, Bruno Soriano (we need more consistency from him), Jonathan de Guzmán (where is he?).