In this series, we take a look at some of the most interesting young talents in the world of football. Next up is Independiente del Valle’s 20-years-old midfielder Marco Angulo

Independiente del Valle have long been heralded for their fantastic youth development work, boasting arguably one of the best academies on the entire continent. The club can count current Ecuador internationals Moises Caicedo, Piero Hincapie and Angelo Preciado as just a few of its success stories.

The IDV project was given further vindication after they won the 2022 Copa Sudamericana, beating Brazilian giants Sao Paulo 2-0 in Cordoba at the start of the month. The title was their second in just four years, having also previously finished as runners-up in the 2016 Libertadores.

A key member of their latest continental success was 20-year-old midfielder Marco Angulo.

As a 17-year-old Angulo was part of the IDV squad that won the 2020 U20 Libertadores and two years later captained them as they narrowly missed out to Peñarol on penalties in the 2022 edition.

2022 also saw Angulo establish himself in the IDV first team, playing 21 league games, as well as playing every game in their Sudamericana success.

Angulo makes a late run from midfield and rifles the shot against the crossbar. In the first leg, Angulo scored the only goal in a 1-0 win.

Angulo has the capacity and flexibility to play either as a deep-lying holding midfielder, as he did for much of his youth career, or in more of a shuttling box-to-box role, as he has tended to do for the first team under Martin Anselmi.

An elegant player, Angulo brings calm and class to the midfield with his smooth upright running style and unhurried demeanor. His great positioning and tactical intelligence allow him to protect his defense but also provide a platform to build from the back and progress the ball forward.

Angulo spots the danger of the Libertad forward making a darting run into the channel between the full-back and center-back and tracks back to help out the defense.
Angulo gets back and forces the Libertad player into the corner, before cleanly dispossessing him. He shows his composure by calmly advancing forward and picking a pass, rather than panicking and sending a long ball forward.

Angulo is a tidy passer of the ball, averaging a pass completion of 86.03%, and always looks to be on the ball and involved in the construction of the play, as shown by his average of 41.67 passes per 90 in the LigaPro this year.

Although usually tasked with keeping it simple, he does have the range to spray raking forward balls off either foot, quickly switching the point of attack.

Angulo picks up the ball between the center-backs and from his quarterback role picks a perfectly weighted ball in behind the Peñarol defense into the path of the winger cutting in from the flank.

His performances in the Sudamericana have shown that he can contribute further forward too. Typically deployed on the right of a midfield three, Angulo was given the license to get forward with veteran Pellerano anchoring the midfield. Angulo averaged 0.63 key passes per 90 and an 80.77% forward pass accuracy.

This was epitomized in both legs of the semi-final against Melgar as Angulo sparkled, providing an assist in each game, as well as 3 key passes in the second leg, and an average of 92.5% pass completion across the ties.

Angulo picks up the ball and drives toward the penalty box, pinning the defender back. He then picks out Faravelli on the edge of the box who sweeps in the second goal of the game.

Like an iron fist in a velvet glove, Angulo is a hard-working and defensively diligent midfielder. He is not afraid of a challenge, as shown by his average of 7.71 defensive duels and 6.93 recoveries per 90 in the Liga Pro this season.

Angulo also presses well and averages 3.98 counter-pressing recoveries per 90 in the league, while 65% of his recoveries in the Sudamericana came in the opposition half. This ability is thanks to not only his reading of the game but his acceleration over short distances, allowing him to snap into challenges before the opponent can react.

Angulo is stationed on the edge of the area and, even before the ball has been moved on, he anticipates where to be and presses the player and wins the ball to set up a counterattack.
Angulo once again shows his pressing skills by first closing down the midfielder, forcing him to play a hurried, undercooked pass back to where it came from. Angulo uses his acceleration to maintain the press and wins the ball to set up a 2v2. (below)

This burst of acceleration also helps him beat the opposition press. Angulo’s physical capabilities, married to the technique of his close control and awareness, all aid his press resistance.

Angulo receives the ball in a tight area, with three players in close proximity. He pauses, drawing the press, before slipping a ball to his teammate and then spinning into the space to receive the return ball and continue the attacking move.

While there are certainly improvements needed in building up his strength and the question of how he would handle the increased intensity of higher level league, Angulo has nevertheless had a breakout year for Independiente del Valle and the potential to improve further.

That chance to test himself in a different league may come sooner rather than later, with reported interest from the likes of Monaco, Udinese, Toulouse and Flamengo.

Given IDV’s not-insignificant hand in the recent rise of the Ecuador national team, which has simultaneously helped put their players in the shop window to a more international market, it would be no surprise to see Angulo follow in the footsteps of his fellow alumni.

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