CONCACAF Champions League: Isaac Brizuela poses difficult matchup for San Jose Earthquakes backline
Isaac Brizuela is coming home. Well, his birthplace at least.
The San Jose-born and current Toluca winger returns to the Bay Area on Tuesday night to face the Earthquakes in the first leg of a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal (10 pm ET, FOX Sports 2, Univision Deportes) after destroying a pair of American defenders, DaMarcus Beasley and Michael Orozco, on Friday.
Both players were forced into yellow cards attempting to defend Toluca's sensational winger and Orozco even conceded a penalty.
And although he is US-born, Brizuela made his Mexico debut during last summer’s Gold Cup after some hesitation and has a strong case to be included in El Tri’s squad for the World Cup. After watching him Tuesday night at Buck Shaw Stadium, USMNT fans will likely be ruing the day Jurgen Klinsmann and his staff missed out on the opportunity to call him up.
Since making his first Toluca appearance in July of 2009, Brizuela has been a constant but not consistent presence in the Liga MX club's lineup. In three full seasons for the Red Devils from 2009 to 2012, he averaged just 839 minutes per season. Finally in January of 2013, Brizuela was loaned out to Atlas, where he was able to log consistent playing time for the first time in his career.
The right winger played relatively well in this season’s Apertura after returning to Toluca, but Brizuela has become one of the elite players in Liga MX this season. Though he has only registered three goals and two assists this season, his attacking prowess has caused many more problems for opposing defenses.
Is he the best player in Liga MX right now? Probably not. Is he one of the most versatile attacking threats in the league? Most definitely, and he should present quite the test for San Jose's backline.
Brizuela has taken players on at nearly every opportunity, and won those battles at the 15th-highest rate in Liga MX this season. Some players you might recognize, such as Luis Montes of León, and some players you will get to know, such as Joao Rojas of Cruz Azul, sit above Brizuela in that metric.
What all these players have in common is that when they beat their mark, they like to create for their teammates. Montes leads the league in chances created per 90 minutes at 3.41, while Brizuela creates nearly 1.5 chances per 90.
But what sets him apart is his ability to create for himself.
Only Carlos Darwin Quintero of Santos Laguna, whom MLS fans should know well after his exploits in past tournaments, has completed more dribbles per 90 and taken more shots than Brizuela in this season’s Clausura. Quintero is also the only other player with as many goals (three) as Brizuela this season.
So the Toluca man is basically in the company of only one other player in terms of beating men with his dribble and uncorking a shot. Perhaps more importantly, he also makes the most of those shots, putting 65 percent of them on target.
Featuring on the right, Brizuela will cause plenty of problems for Jordan Stewart and Clarence Goodson on the left side of San Jose's defense. Brizuela is known more for his technical ability, rather than his speed, so these two will need to prepare for all the moves that will be thrown their way. If they are able to contain him, the Quakes have a shot at slowing down one of the most fearsome attacks in Liga MX.