COPA AMERICA CENTENARIO: NPSL EDITION (PART II)

Copa America Centenario will feature some of the sport’s best – players who are renowned not just in their home countries but throughout most of the world. As such, this tournament will give many young players the chance to see some of the stars that they look up and see as role models.

For Juan Gatti, from Kingston Stockade FC, no star shines brighter than Lionel Messi.

“When it comes to quality and show and everything, as a soccer player I love to watch Messi. He’s just unbelievable,” states the Argentine. “He’s on a different level.”

But despite all the flair of Messi, there’s another player in Argentina’s team that Gatti also admires.

“I always, always love to watch the way [Javier] Mascherano plays. He’s just a general back there. He’s a silent guy, but you can tell he’s a leader. And the way he plays… I’ve never seen something like that!”

NC Battalion’s Diego Fontes has similar thoughts on Diego Godín, whom he believes to be the second most important player for La Celeste.

“He’s the organizer in the back and the type of player that isn’t flashy – he’s not crazy creative, he’s not going to make too many headlines, but he does everything right and he does everything for the greater of the team,” shares Fontes. “Godín plays a big part of that backline and [affects] team chemistry, the team morale that will be crucial for Uruguay this summer.”

Interestingly enough, Fontes admits that while he certainly respects Luis Suárez, he isn’t a huge fan of his.

“Even though he’s Uruguayan and I think he’s one of the best strikers in the world, he played on the rival team from the team that I grew up supporting. So to me, because of how much of a fan I am, Suárez is never going to be my idol.”

Ricky Chavez, a Tulsa Athletics player from Colombia, has a hard time choosing his favorite player but believes the team’ strength is in going forward even though the team has lost some players who featured in the World Cup.

“I would say that Colombia’s strength is going forward with players like Juan Cuadrado and James Rodriguez in the middle of the field, and our goalscorer Carlos Bacca,” mentions Chavez. “Colombia lost some key players that played in the World Cup, and now we have a new group of players stepping in and filling those roles.”

Chilean Ignacio Milla is excited to see Gary Medel, although he admits that there is another player in Chile’s national team that is better.

“[Gary Medel’s] has such a commitment to the game – his running all over the field the entire time. And he actually was a player for my local team, so he’s my favorite player to watch, but the best one right now is for sure Arturo Vidal,” says the Nashville FC player.

Javi Bautista’s favorite Mexican player is Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernández, whom he believes will be vastly influential for El Tri.

“He’s just a European giant. He’s been playing very, very well in Germany. I think he’s going to be a major, major influence in Mexico,” states the Detroit City player.

Yet while so many are focused on the established names that will be gracing the U.S. this month, Victor Bellido is keeping an eye on the future of Perú. The NJ Copa FC player is interested in seeing how Cristian Benevente performs at the tournament.

“He’s been with the national team, gotten a couple call ups, and he’s just starting to get a chance to really show himself now. He was in the youth system of Real Madrid so I feel like he has a lot of talent and good things to show for Peru. So I think he’s going to be a great asset to the team once he gets a little more experience and a little more exposure,” says Bellido.

Missing Stars’ Absence Felt

The biggest name missing from this tournament is Neymar, as the Barcelona star will instead participate in this summer’s Olympics, which will take place in Brazil. Juan Gatti believes that while Neymar’s absence will be felt, Brazil can’t be easily dismissed.

“Not having Neymar is a big impact on the team. He’s the captain, he’s their best player, he’s coming from having two productive years with Barcelona… He’s in the greatest moment in his life and not having him will definitely impact the team. I don’t know how Brazil is going to respond to not having their captain,” he comments. “But they will always be a favorite because of the level they have.”

Another player missing from this tournament is Mexican Giovani dos Santos, something Javi Bautista thinks will force other players to step up in his absence.

“Obviously he’s one of the biggest players that we have,” says Bautista. “It is a big absence. Of course when you have players like him missing it makes an impact, but I think having some of the younger guys come in, some of the other guys come in – they’ll really have to step up to leave a good impression.”

A player who is in the tournament but whose appearance is still up in the air because of an injury is Luis Suárez, whose absence will greatly impact Uruguay.

“Not having him changes the way we play completely because it doesn’t give you that target go-to guy that is going to get you out of games, so you have to kind off use your resources differently,” states Diego Fontes.

“You can’t really replace Suárez, a guy that scores as many goals as he does on a given season is hard to replace. So rather than try to fill his shoes, using other players collectively and changing the style of play and coming together will help us come out on top,” he added.

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