2. Hector Villalba
Just like Miguel Almiron, Hector Villalba also made his way back to the pitch on Sunday at Yankee Stadium. Villalba picked up an injury while training with the Paraguay national team over the October international break and missed the team’s last two regular season matches. Villalba came on in the second half against NYCFC as Almiron’s replacement.
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The idea behind the move was that Almiron would provide a strong first half spark while Villalba would be the fresh legs in the second half to keep the energy of the team up. Unfortunately, that move did not go according to plan.
Villalba looked timid and slow on the pitch during the second half. In fact, his performance was so jarring that Martino opted to sub on Ezequiel Barco for the final seven minutes even after inserting Villalba for the second half.
So, just as Martino has a decision to make with Almiron this weekend, he also has a decision to make with Villalba. Can Villalba go 90 minutes? The Atlanta coaching staff certainly thought something was wrong during the first leg. My guess is the coaches will evaluate Villalba throughout the week and make their decision at the last second possible. I think it would be a surprise if Villalba got the start, so expect him to sub on at some point during Sunday’s match.
I believe the best course of action is to rest Villalba as much as possible, let him regain his speed and fitness, then use him as a sub in the last half hour of Sunday’s match. He can be the final push needed to help the Five Stripes advance through the playoffs.