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Vero Looks to Bring Magic in the Midfield

Will Vero help the Thorns unlock their high-powered attack?

Michael Regan

When Paul Riley was hired by the Portland Thorns, he dropped hints that he was looking to bring in some of his former players from his days as head coach of the Philadelphia Independence of WPS.

"I'd like to bring a player in from abroad, maybe two players in from abroad," Riley said. "Obviously we are under a cap situation and contract situations around. We need to try to get through it and see what's available. I've pretty much kept up with all the players in Europe, South America and everywhere else. There's definitely a few targets. I am sure you know one of them, that's going to be a target we are going to go after."

Speculation also immediately turned to Vero Boquete.

Vero, the diminutive 27 year-old Spanish captain with 24 goals in 34 matches for her National Team, played with Riley with the Independence in 2011, scoring 5 goals in 13 games as they made it to the WPS Final, only to lose on penalty kicks.

"He was the biggest reason that I am here," she said after training Monday.  "If he was not here I would be playing in another team for sure.  I really enjoy with him in Philly, and when he said, ‘hey, you have to come to Portland.'"

Riley made his pursuit of Vero a top priority, and he eventually landed her after trading for her rights with Western New York, sending defender Kat Williamson and midfielder Courtney Wetzel as part of the acquisition that also brought in midfielder Sarah Huffman.

"We are delighted to bring one of the world's top talents to Portland. Verónica is a fantastic footballer with an extremely high soccer IQ, tremendous work ethic and has the ability to break down any opposing defense," Riley said when they announced her signing. "Having worked with her before, I know she can be a major influence in retaining the NWSL championship. Her personality and love of football is infectious and I'm excited to get her here and add her pedigree to our talented roster."

So what does she bring to the Thorns?

Magic.  Creativity.  Vision.

All aspects the Thorns have lacked much of their time as club.

"I will try to do my best and my best is always playing in between lines and give to the team confidence and play easy balls and keep the possession and try to find the good balls in the last third part."

In last month's UEFA Women's Champions League Final for Tyresö FF,  she gave us a glimpse of what she can do.

In the video above, she make two important plays that led to goals less than 3 minutes apart.  In the first sequence, she steals the ball from a defend, dribbles it up field, then make the key pass to Marta, who dribbled the ball past the defensive line into the box for a wonderful finish.

In the second sequence (starting at 1:02) Christen Press finds herself taking on three defenders near the edge of the box at the endline.  Suddenly, Vero appears out of nowhere, (masked by a defender on the TV angle) and heads home a chip from Press at the 6.

"Well, Vero I'm happy for...She's just a class player and she's seen the game, possession game so well," Riley said Monday.  "Disguises a lot of things, just clever...She's going to be a massive plus for us, no question."

Highlight reels of her play shows a player of great skill and vision who adds versatility into the attack, whether she is playing as an attacking midfielder or forward, giving the Thorns even more options up top and will hopefully lead to a goal scoring outburst we have yet to see this season, save for the match against Kansas City.

In training Tuesday, she lined up with the first team at central attacking midfielder, working as a distribution point out to the overlapping wings, who then served the ball in,while she pushed to the top of the box..

She looked like a player fitting in, but is also aware of the differences in the American and European games.

"I think the league and practice are harder than in Europe.  They style of soccer is a little different here.  It's more physical and more run.  I think that I need a little more of that but also to give the team more calm, so we can have a long season."

Calm might be exactly what the Thorns need, instead of the frantic pace that they've found themselves caught up in more than once this season.

While Riley was non-committal about who was pegged as starters for Saturday, Vero is ready one way or the other.

"Of course.  I'm here for that, to help the team and I'm ready when he think(s) that I'm ready to play."

Here is a YouTube highlight video that shows off her skills in the attack-