Artwork by @chapulana

One of LA Galaxy’s most consistent, in terms of appearance, players is Rolf Günther Feltscher Martínez. Starting as LA Galaxy’s main right back, he has featured along 14 appearances so far and has been beneficial to LA Galaxy’s run. Signed in December of 2017, Martínez, initially, recorded only seven games and starts. After being released by Galaxy, at the end of 2018, Martínez ended up rejoining the Los Angeles side.

In this tactical analysis, we aim to showcase you the tactics of Rolf Martínez and an analysis of why he does what he does. In this scout report, we will be analying his attacking and defensive movements and showcasing you the strengths and weaknesses of the Venezuelan defender. 

Martínez’s wide attacking runs

Martínez has many strong points when engaging attack. This might not seem apparent at first when one sees Martínez’s stats. In his 14 games in the new MLS season, he only has one goal and two assists.

However, his attacking tendencies are revealed when his specific movements are analyzed.

One of Martínez’s attacking tendencies is to open himself on the wing flank with continuous overlapping runs. As soon as LA Galaxy got hold of the ball, the Venezuelan would start an overlapping run on the right-hand side. 

His trigger for making the overlapping runs is whenever Galaxy’s right hand sided midfielder gets on the ball. The reason why Martínez does this is that it allows him to participate in quick “get and go”s. 

Since the right-hand midfielder primarily functions in the halfspace, Martínez’s run means the Venezuelan is able to put himself in a position where he can get vertical balls from the midfielder. 

Rolf Martinez 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
We can see the trigger for Martínez’s vertical runs

Here LA Galaxy have found themselves in a good position. Consequently, as soon as the ball is transferred to the right midfielder of LA Galaxy, Martinez starts his run from deep, shown by the circle named “WyScout”. As such, the trigger for him has been activated and he will act on it immediately. Moreover, take quick notice of the time, 73:53. 

We will now contrast this with a second image to showcase the full effects of the trigger

Rolf Martinez 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
The end result of Martínez ‘s vertical runs

In a matter of four seconds, the LA Galaxy fullback has gone all the way to the final third, from near the halfway line. Moreover, in doing so, he has received a pass from his right midfielder and is now in a 1v1. Martinez can exploit this situation for his gain and attempt crosses 

As important it is that Martínez makes those runs, it is also important what the quality of those runs are. After all, a sluggish and ill-positioned run does not yield in much-attacking potential.

Martínez’s vertical, overlapping runs are often very quick and occur right near the touchline. As such, Martínez maintains himself in a very wide and high position. 

Another important aspect to note of Martínez’s attacking nature is that it doesn’t always have to be the right midfielder that triggers the run. Often times, after LA Galaxy have defended a corner and launched a ball upwards, the Venezuelan will make the same high and wide runs when in the counterattack.

As such, Martínez is always looking and scanning for opportunities and as soon as space is opened up on the wing-flank, Martínez is very willing to attack the space. 

Martínez’s positional attacking play

One way of expressing his aggressive nature is his tendency to be involved in positional play on the wings.

Sometimes the Venezuelan will drop down from his high positioning. This drags the opposition fullback and opens space behind the opposition fullback. From there, Martínez will look to actually come narrower with his team.

This allows him to be more connected to his teammates. Whereas before the only easy and safe passing option would through the midfielder, now there are the defender behind Martínez and the winger providing options. 

Martínez’s aim in this action is to, ultimately, make a triangle with the midfielder and the winger and employ himself as the third man. To exploit his special role for his attacking endeavours, Martínez will start to make one of two movements, depending on the pass and the receiver.

If it is the winger who is receiving, the Venezuelan will peel off and make a diagonal run towards the touchline. This allows him to be more open and receive the pass from the winger. If it is the midfielder who is receiving, the LA Galaxy fullback will quickly turn and make a vertical run.

Rolf Martinez 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
We can see Martínez‘s involvement in positional play.

Martínez, in the photo above, has come down and is narrow. This has allowed him to create a triangle with his right midfielder and right-winger. The presence of one opposition player in the triangle means that a 3v1 situation has been created on the wing.

As such, the triangle allows Martínez to have many passing options. Martínez, after passing to the midfielder, will run vertically so that he can exploit the space behind the opposition fullback. As mentioned before, the midfielder will make a diagonal pass and then, he will be in a 1v1 situation, an ideal situation for any fullback.

Positional play like this allows Martínez to get into great crossing options without wasting too much energy. The passing interactions in the triangle allow him to intelligently bypass several opposition defenders.

Martinez’s Strength: Cross and Cutbacks

One of the Venezuelan’s best-attacking aspects is his crossing. As discussed in the previous section, most of his runs and positional play revolves around getting space to cross.

Unlike some fullbacks who only present themselves in the position to be available to make a cross, Martínez gets into those positions to want to make a cross.

This desire to cross is the reason for his 5.1 crosses per game, having a success rate of 23.5%. He is also one of the most successful crossers, from fullbacks, in the MLS, ranking only behind Romain Métanire for the most successful crosses. This successful rate outlines his strength in crossing.

Martínez’s crosses have a tendency to always land in spaces. These spaces are created by the team’s movement but are also a testament of Martínez’s skill at getting those crosses to land in the right place. 

Rolf Martinez 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
Here we see an example of one of Martínez‘s crossing abilities.

Here the Venezuelan defender crosses between the space of the three centre-backs, a space that is a great location for the cross. While the situation may initially look like a disadvantage, seeing as there are three opposition players against two of Martínez’s teammates, the cross allows the home team to break the numerical superiority.

Martínez’s cross is direct and pinpoint and is aimed directly at the head of the leftmost attacker. This simple cross has allowed the Venezuelan fullback and his men to break a numerical deadlock and get a clear shot of goal. In fact, the quality of Martinez’s cross resulted in the leftmost attacker heading it for a goal. 

Martínez’s has another skillset in his crossing abilities. The Venezuelan fullback can cross from deep and as such, poses another threat to the opposition team. Combine this ability with his aggressive nature and it can be a deadly formula for an attack.

Rolf Martinez 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
Here we see Martínez‘s ability to cross from deep.

The yellow line, shown in the above picture, shows how far from the end line Martínez is. Moreover, his body is not fully facing the goal as normal fullbacks do when they cross. His body is facing away from the goal and despite these two situations, Martinez manages to get in a cross. 

This type of ability, to cross from deep and from difficult situations, is an important skill set to have as it allows the player to be unpredictable. This trait from Martínez also aids the team as it opens up new avenues for attacking play.

A corollary to his great crossing abilities is his intelligence to recognize the avenues and pathways for non-crossing attacking play.

At times, the Venezuelan fullback will simply cut back and make a diagonal backwards pass. This has the intention of reaching the winger who has found himself in the halfspace, a special space for creating assists and chances.

Rolf Martinez 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
Martínez showcases his intelligence to recognize non-crossing play

Here the LA Galaxy defender is running with the ball and instead of bursting into pace and crossing, he quickly slows down and makes a diagonal back pass. This diagonal back pass lands in the halfspace and as such allows Galaxy a chance to score a goal.

Moreover passes such as these also eliminate many opposition players, five in this case. Not only does this create space for Martínez, but it also aids in creating space for the team.

As such, Martínez also indirectly contributes to his team’s attack. This is evident when one looks at his key passes per game, 1.2, the fourth-highest for fullbacks. Breaking down that statistic reveals to us that about 0.9 of his 1.2 passes are short, indicating that Martínez is intelligent at spotting spaces and holes in that dangerous 1v1 position.

Having such a high number of key passes, as a fullback shows Martínez’s strength in making cutbacks and more importantly, his eye for indirect attacks and chance creation. 

Defensive Deficiencies of Martinez

While Martínez certainly shines in the attacking aspect of his game, he does suffer from some weaknesses in his defensive aspect.

One of the biggest deficiencies in his defensive nature is dealing against 1v1s. 

Often times, all it will take to get away from Martínez is a simple faint or a combination of one or two moves. This stems from Martínez not marking attackers tightly as he will leave a sizeable gap between him and the attacker.

This allows the attacker to change his pace and direction with the knowledge that Martínez will not be able to cover that distance in that time, despite his rapid pace. This poor marking allows wingers and fullbacks to get past Martínez and attack the space behind him.

Another aspect which aids this poor defensive performance is that Martínez is often flat-footed when defending. This flat-footedness means that Martínez has to take more time to catch the attacker.

Rolf Martinez 2018/19 - scout report
Here we see Rolf Martínez’s 1v1 defending.

The red line, which showcases the distance between the Venezuelan and the opposition winger, is longer than it should be. Normally, a fullback would be tighter, therefore restricting the opposition’s movement.

However, his distance from the attacker allows the attacker to use a combination of feints and pace to accelerate upfield, as shown in the white arrow. This move is detrimental as it leaves LA Galaxy’s halfspace undefended and most likely will result in a goal.

Since the towering Venezuelan has been beaten, there is a numerical superiority for the opposition and there will always be a spare attacker. This spare attacker often comes in and pounces on the cross or cutback.

Another deficiency in Martínez’s defensive game is his tendency to not be aware of the opposition’s positions and his own team’s positions. This lack of knowledge often leads him to be attracted to the ball and as such, he gets easily caught off the ball.

As such teams utilize a ball carrier to attract Martínez. Due to his attacking-minded nature, Martínez presses aggressively in hopes of getting the ball. In the instances he does, it can lead to great attacking options for LA Galaxy.

However, Martínez’s ability to interception is poor. He is ranked 16th in interceptions from MLS’ fullbacks, averaging 1.5 interceptions per game. This number is less than average for a fullback in his prime.

One can already imagine what happens when Martínez pushes up to press. His failure to get a lot of interceptions means that he is surpassed easily. Moreover, his movement vacates space behind him which can be exploited by opponents.

Rolf Martinez 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
Here we see Martínez’s poor interception ability.

Here Martinez attempted to use the opposition’s blind spot and tries to intercept the ball. However, the player quickly turns inwards, as shown with the black arrows. Since Martinez had great forward momentum, he cannot recuperate and defend against the turn. As such, it allows the attacker to attack the huge space left behind by Martinez, shown in yellow.

This space now allows the opposition to control the defence and therefore allows many scenarios where there might be numerical superiority. This numerical superiority will lead to the defence being broken apart and ultimately scored against.

His inability to keep the defensive line and structure means that Martínez’s flank is repeatedly attacked by the opposition. This was seen in the last match against Portland Timbers in which 50% of dribbles, the mechanism by which the defence is attacked, occurred on the right-wing flank of LA Galaxy.

Rolf Martinez 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
Here we see an example of how the opposition, like Portland Timbers, exploit the Venezuelan defender

In the picture above, the ball carrier uses a dribble to draw in Martinez. Martinez, failing to hold his position and recognize the full risks, breaks position. This creates a huge space on the wing flank. 

The opposition player now has three different players ready to fill in space and advance the attack. Behaviour like this has often prompted teams like the Timbers to exploit the right-hand side of Galaxy.

Conclusion

Martínez is a good asset for LA Galaxy but he is just that. Good. While his attacking prowess has been of great help to a struggling LA Galaxy side, his errors in the defensive part have cost Galaxy more points. As Martínez nears his prime, it is safe to say that there is little more room for improvement. This scout report has revealed that Martínez is a decent fullback in his defensive aspect and excellent fullback in his attacking aspect, especially in the crossing department.


Total Football Analysis Magazine #11: July 2019 - tactical analysis tactics
Artwork by @chapulana

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