So much of the hype that followed Frankie Amaya out of UCLA and the U.S. Under-20 National Team was his attacking potential and creativity. What was often overlooked, though, is the 19-year-old’s emerging defensive qualities.
With a slight adjustment of positioning in 2020, Amaya has emerged as a strong option at defensive midfielder, playing alongside Haris Medunjanin deep in the midfield.
As fans and pundits figured him more of a No. 8/10 hybrid, he’s developed into a very strong No. 6/8 hybrid who’s been a defensive cog for the team in its first two games.
No moment has proved that more than during the 78th minute of Saturday night’s 2-1 loss at Atlanta United FC.
In a two-second span, Amaya singlehandedly prevented a would-be goal and kept FCC in contention to earn a point.
With Cincinnati players forward trying to equalize the match, the visitors were caught in transition when Greg Garza didn’t win a header. From there, Atlanta broke free in a massive counter attack.
The best chance to stop the attack literally slid by when Mathieu Deplagne’s sliding challenge missed the ball, and Atlanta had a 3-on-1 breakaway.
Screenshot from FloFC.
Amaya was basically caught in no man’s land – with three of Atlanta’s best attackers bearing down on him.
If he went in for a tackle and missed, Atlanta would literally have three players storming in alone on goalkeeper Spencer Richey.
But if Amaya stayed in “prevention mode,” his teammates wouldn’t have recovered in time and the 3-on-1 would’ve gone from the midfield line to inside Cincinnati’s box.
With limited options, the 19 year old made arguable his most important play yet.
He stepped forward – forcing two Atlanta players offside. Naturally, Ezequiel Barco played the ball to Adam Jahn, who was offside, and the counterattack ended.
Was Amaya’s move risky? Yes. Did it save FCC without potentially making a last-man tackle? Yes.
Screenshot from FloFC.
“Frankie is very responsible,” interim head coach Yoann Damet said. “He’s a young player, but he’s very responsible. He understood the job we gave him. I feel he did well managing the half spaces being close to the backline, but also be able to put some pressure (on Atlanta’s attacking players).”
Stepping forward to drag Atlanta offside won’t show up in the box score, but it’s an essential play that reiterated Amaya’s growth as a player. And it opened league insiders’ eyes to an entirely different potential than they had him pegged for.
The center midfielder had a team-high three tackles on Saturday, in addition to making an interception and gaining possession for times.
“Whatever they want me to play, I’m going to play,” Amaya said. “That’s just what is better for the team and that’s what I did.”
A tenacious tackler, his versatility as a midfielder shouldn’t be undervalued. Clearly, he can help in defense, but he can create scoring opportunities, too.
Amaya hadn’t even made his professional debut this time a year ago. Now, he’s a promising player who’s literally improving every week. That shouldn’t be underappreciated – or go unnoticed.