CHESTER, Pa. – Fernando Aristeguieta is a 22-year-old who’s only played in two MLS games. But that’s not going to stop Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin from drawing bold comparisons to his new striker.
“He reminds me a little bit of Taylor Twellman in that the ball always seems to find either his head or his foot, and when he gets chances he buries them,” Curtin told MLSsoccer.com. “He’s not a guy that needs five chances. He needs two or three looks. With three looks, he’ll get you a goal or two. He’s special around the goal.”
Aristeguieta, of course, still has a long way to go to score 100 MLS goals like Twellman, an ESPN analyst who starred for the New England Revolution from 2002 to 2010. But the Venezuelan international is certainly off to a promising start, opening his MLS account with two goals in Philadelphia’s 3-3 draw with Real Salt Lake last week.
Aristeguieta took advantage of a fortunate deflection on the first goal and a sleeping RSL defense on the second, making runs to get to the right place at the right time. For him, that’s just how he plays the game.
“I like to score goals however,” Aristeguieta said. “A goal is a goal. You can score ugly goals, beautiful goals – they’re all the same.”
While some fans may have the initial impression that he’s a poacher, Curtin wanted to make clear that Aristeguieta is a well-rounded player that has the ability to score from distance, make the final pass and put in work defensively.
Perhaps the best part, though, is the mentality the Union coach has seen in the striker since he came over on loan from France’s FC Nantes last month.
“He’s a great person,” Curtin said. “I think that goes a long way. He walked into the locker room and has been respectful of everyone. He got along with the guys right away.”
Meshing with teammates and handling the pressure of joining a new team isn’t a foreign concept to Aristeguieta, who earned his first cap for the Venezuelan national team as a teenager in 2010. The striker has since made 12 appearances for his native country, which helped him get to Europe, where he became the first Venezuelan player to ever score in France’s Ligue 1.
“The first time you go and start meeting with players that were heroes to you growing up is huge,” Aristeguieta said. “And it helps you because, for the national team, you have games where you have 30 million people behind you. And you receive a lot of pressure from that.”
Aristeguieta added that he played against some physical teams while with Venezuela, which is helping him with his transition to MLS. Even still, the physical nature of his new league, he said, has been “a big difference” so far.
“I’m a big guy,” the 6-foot-2 striker said. “I have to get used it and start knowing the defenders here like to hit and foul. The referees let the game continue, which is a good thing sometimes.”
Either way, the Venezuelan plans to fight through it and keep scoring goals, starting with Saturday's home tilt against undefeated FC Dallas at PPL Park (4 pm ET, Univision Deportes Network).
“The important thing is winning,” he said. “But my way to help the team win is scoring goals. I’m a striker, and I’m the type of striker that can offer goals.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at email@example.com.