Vicente, Serrano, and Morcillo Shine In Friendly At Las Gaunas
Athletic’s young stars took center stage on Saturday in the team’s opening friendly of the summer. With 11 first team players unavailable 8 starlets had the opportunity to make their unofficial debuts. The match may have ended in a disappointing 3-1 loss to Logroñés, but it was a terrific chance for the next generation to play valuable minutes and show what they can bring to the squad.
Nico Serrano made his debut by being named to the starting lineup and playing on the right wing opposite Iñigo Vicente. The 17-year-old exuded confidence from the first minute and was a constant threat with the ball at his feet.
Throughout the first half Serrano showed a willingness to drop back and contribute defensively while his dribbling and determination to take the ball forward caused constant problems for the Logroñés back line. The teenager was at his best when cutting inside as his elusiveness led to several promising attacks.
Along with Serrano, Vicente was one of the bright spots in the first half. After a year away on loan Vicente played with more maturity and an understanding of when to take on defenders and when to pass the ball. The 22-year-old was able to create a few chances for himself that ended in blocked shots and one effort that curled just wide of the far corner.
For years Athletic’s attack has been missing players who can provide that special spark through dribbling or passes that cut open a defense. Serrano and Vicente both offer those qualities in excess and showed it against Logroñés. Both would leave the field at halftime as Jon Morcillo came on and was Athletic’s most dynamic player.
Morcillo’s daring dribbling was an asset in the final third and his low cross into the box just before the hour mark led to Athletic’s only goal. Capable of playing on either wing, Morcillo was looking to attack every time he touched the ball and he rifled a few shots on goal that forced the goalkeeper to make important saves.
It’s no secret that Athletic need help in attack. The team has struggled to create chances and score goals for years but there are options. Vicente and Morcillo will both be competing for first team roles this summer and could convince the manager if they continue to impress. Serrano is set to play with Bilbao Athletic this year but already looks ready for first team football. All three have the qualities that have been absent in Athletic’s attack.
Apart from the trio, Ewan Urain also had a strong debut. The tall striker held up play well, put himself in scoring positions during the second half, and appeared to be a natural fit at the top of Athletic’s front line. Aitor Paredes, Beñat Prados, Jon Sillero, Oier Luengo, and Oier Zarraga all made their unofficial debuts as well and put in good performances at Las Gaunas.
Over the past few years there has been an exodus of veteran players at Athletic, ushering in a youth movement at the club. The time is coming for the next generation to take over at San Mamés and the likes of Vicente, Serrano, Morcillo and others could be part of the solution to Athletic’s problems in attack. Ultimately, Saturday’s match was just a friendly, but the starlets showed that they are ready for the chance to make an impact in the first team.