Moisés Caicedo is so important to Independiente del Valle that earlier this year he flew repeatedly between Paraguay and Ecuador, ensuring he could play regularly for Independiente’s first team, while also competing for their youth side in the Under-20 Libertadores. Will Savage has the low-down on the twice-capped Ecuadorian.
For a midfielder, who is still only 18, to be so important for one of Ecuador’s most prominent and best run teams, while also picking up his first international cap and goal, goes some way to show how exciting his emergence has been.
Caicedo is an interesting player to describe; for a footballer still as relatively inexperienced as he is, it is remarkable how well rounded and complete he is.
If this profile was being written in the first half of 2020, I would be writing about his potential as a traditional South American defensive midfielder, waxing lyrical about how his positional sense makes him the ideal player to anchor a midfielder. After all that’s the role that he most frequently played in youth football.
Now, however, it would be easy to watch Caicedo play and assume he has been playing as an aggressive box-to-box midfielder since he was a child, given how naturally the position comes to him.
TACTICAL FIT AT SENIOR LEVEL
To give some context to how his traits as a player manifest on the pitch, Independiente nominally set up in a 4-1-4-1, although the positional demands on the players mean it rarely looks that simple.
As the deepest midfielder, Caicedo is largely tasked in possession with dropping in between the centre backs, often the deepest player outfield player in the build up.
His mature passing in this role varies from short passes to recycle possession in the first line of the build up, and more ambitious passes to progress the ball.
His impressive reading of the game and ability to regularly find angles to receive the ball and play through the first line of the press makes him an ideal player for this role.
When he plays further forward however, the demands placed upon him are quite different. The more advanced midfielders almost vacate the midfield, moving in between the opposition midfielders, and often beyond the midfield line, almost playing in the hole.
This gives the full backs the freedom to stay wide or come inside as they see fit. It’s a role that requires impressive positional discipline, which he has in spades.
He tends to take up spaces in the right half space or the centre of the pitch, depending on the position of the ball.
He rarely drifts out to the wing unless there’s a need to provide width; the movements he does make tend to be more focused on providing depth, dropping deeper to help progress the ball, or making forward runs.
With a little coaching, his third man runs could be a regular source of joy for a side looking to break down a deep defence.
What’s even more interesting is what he does in the other phases of play. When Independiente win the ball back, his actions naturally vary depending on the situation.
He makes runs into the area if there is space, but in his head he retains a map of the pitch, and it is not uncommon for him to maintain his position, or even move deeper, if there are numbers flooding forwards from other positions during attacking transitions.
When Independiente are defending, their midfield often has a loose man marking system.
Their midfielders are tasked with keeping an eye on opposition midfielders, but not necessarily sticking tight to them; it’s a fluid enough system that allows players to leave their man if the situation requires it.
Although Caicedo does a passable job in such situations, at times it feels like he is uncertain as to whether he should stick with the opponent or move towards the ball.
This possible lack of focus in certain defensive situations is a weakness in his game that shows up even more when defending set pieces.
Caicedo is often tasked with man-marking opponents, but it’s a task that he struggles with, often more focused on making sure his opponent doesn not get the better of him than he is at attacking the ball.
That being said, when Independiente have an attacking set piece, Caicedo is often the player tasked with acting as the deepest outfield player; that is a lot of responsibility, but again goes to show the level of trust that he has earned already.
When Caicedo is at his best however, is when he’s let off the leash. When the set-up does not require him to stay in midfield, he is often asked to move forward and press the defensive line, almost as a second centre forward.
This is the role where he really catches the eye, his natural energy and anticipation are perfect for winning the ball high up and forcing mistakes.
At the same time his athleticism means that he’s able to force opponents wide in the build up, and then move back into midfield when required, to make sure his team aren’t outnumbered further back.
STYLE OF PLAY
Pressing to force mistakes in attacking positions
Clumsy actions both in and out of possession
Caicedo's physical profile the easiest part of his game to describe. He’s an absolute dynamo; if they wired him up to the grid they could probably power half of Ecuador.
He has a good turn of pace and never stops running. He looks a little lightly built, and this can show from time to time when situations call for a little more physicality; that being said, he turns 19 in November, so it’s to be expected that he’ll fill out over time. That physicality is an important part of his game too.
Technically speaking, Caicedo is solid, if not spectacular. I don’t mean that turn of phrase to do him a disservice. He has a good range of passing and he often mixes it up well.
While players his age sometimes feel the need to force the issue when on the ball; he usually moves the ball on quickly and makes a run into another position to receive it, but from time to time he tries something a little more expansive, playing a longer pass to progress the ball or find a teammate in a dangerous area.
When space opens up for him, he needs no invitation to drive forward with the ball, and he offers the ability to either win fouls in midfield, or progress the ball past a defensive line and open up space, both valuable tools for a midfielder to have.
Caicedo also offers a goal threat from range, on the occasions where he does get further forward.
All that being said, he still seems raw at times. His close control can be inconsistent and aesthetically he can look clumsy at times, although that may be inevitable with a player who is the very embodiment of all action.
This clumsiness is most easily spotted when opponents dribble towards Caicedo’s weak side, an observer doesn’t have to watch him for a long time to see stretch with his right leg to an opponent on the opposite side of his body.
Given the regularity with which that kind of defensive action can give away fouls, there’s no doubt that any prospective coach will look to correct that from his game quickly.
All things considered, there’s no doubt that Moisés Caicedo has the raw skillset to be a massive talent for Ecuador, and whichever club he ends up at.
With regards to his future, he is still raw enough in the game that it makes sense for him to stay at Independiente del Valle for the time being, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s left for pastures new by the end of 2021.
While it’s become an increasingly regular habit for South American youngsters to leave for MLS, that’s probably a step that Caicedo can skip.
A move directly to Europe could be on the cards if the right club came calling, but perhaps a step up to one of the biggest name clubs in South America (no disrespect intended to Independiente) would be helpful, to see how he copes under a slightly brighter spotlight.
Regardless, there’s no doubt that, in the hands of a talented coach, the boy from Santo Domingo has the world at his feet.