Having fallen out of favor with the first-division Argentine side Argentinos Juniors, 23-year-old striker Leandro Barrera was recently sent out on a loan to Chivas USA with an option to buy.
Barrera never made much of a mark for Los Bichos in the four years he's been with the club. Coming up from the club's youth side, Barrera made his debut with the senior squad in 2010 at the age of 19. He finished that first year at Argentinos with just two appearances as a late sub, spending most of the season featuring with the reserves. He gradually got more playing time the following year as he had seven appearances, with no starts, and one goal, but considering the team's depth and his inability to shine in his limited time, Barrera would have difficulty cracking that first team on more of a consistent basis.
A life-long center forward, Barrera was looking for options and was given an opportunity by coach Ricardo Caruso Lombardi to boost his minutes by having him play as a left wing back (Spanish). He spent the 2013 Torneo Final and Inicial playing in the defense along with occasional stints at left mid and his usual center forward position and finished the year with 15 starts in 29 appearances, a big jump from his 9 total appearances in his first two years. While he wasn't scoring very many goals (2 goals and an assist during that time), this move afforded him the opportunity to remain relevant to the first team and not become the regular he was becoming on the reserves. Unfortunately, this project did not continue going into the 2014 campaign as he only saw 3 appearances with 1 start, leading up to his loan to Chivas USA.
This sheds a bit of light on his lack of goals. 42 total appearances with 3 lone goals for a player listed as a CF needs to be taken with a grain of salt since roughly 32 of those appearances (around 76%) came from a non-forward position.
This isn't to say that Barrera was particularly effective, however. After reviewing the merciless commentary on the Argentinos Juniors message boards, blogs, and news sites, I quickly discovered Barrera wasn't exactly winning the fans over. There were rumblings that he's been given his fair shot and has proven that he's just horrible and can't contribute to a club on a high level (ouch). Another fan called him "the worst player on the roster, by far." Unfortunately, the majority seem to be happy he's now out of their picture.
Fans will be fans and I wouldn't read too much into those comments. At 23, Barrera's still very young and is fortunate to now play for Wilmer Cabrera, a coach who has a good track record in developing young players. He's now able to proceed with a clean slate and boost his confidence with minutes and experience. While he's listed as a striker, there's a very good chance he was brought over to CUSA to play that left wing, a position we don't really have any depth in at the moment. Playing as a forward is also a strong possibility, but I genuinely doubt he'll be seeing significant time there considering the amount of players that'll see minutes. Barrera played his first minutes with the club in CUSA's 3-2 preseason win over the Revs, coming on as a 68th minute sub for striker Matthew Fondy. Fondy had been paired up with Cubo at the top, but Barrera ended up flying up and down that left flank for the rest of the match.
Barrera's greatest strength appears to be his speed and acceleration, which enables him to create opportunities on the attack. While he's not a strong defender by any means, this quickness allows him to recover quickly. He's definitely an attack-minded player and at times has a tendency of keeping the ball to himself a bit too much, resulting in loss of possession. He didn't do too much to stand out in his debut (although his potential skill set did remind me a bit of Brian de La Fuente's), but then again, its unfair to expect much considering we're talking about limited minutes in the preseason.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!
This article was originally published here.