Late Wednesday night, TFC Twitter was in full flow after a report came out of Brazil that Toronto FC were in talks with Santos over a $6 million transfer for 23-year-old Venezuelan international Yeferson Soteldo.
On Friday, new reports emerged that Soteldo is keen on the move, having recently given an interview stating his desire to join the Reds, and that the deal was in the advanced stages.
Now, with his transfer to Toronto confirmed, let’s take a look at who Yeferson Soteldo is and what he could bring to Toronto FC.
- Name: Yeferson Julio Soteldo Martínez
- Date of birth: June 30, 1997 (23 years old)
- Place of birth: Acarigua, Venezuela
- Height: 5’2”
- Position: Winger/second striker
- Foot: Right
- Current team/League: Santos FC/ Campeonato Brasileiro Série A
Currently plying his trade for the legendary Brazilian side Santos FC, after stops in Chile with Huachipato and Club de Universidad de Chile as well as in his homeland of Venezuela with Zamora as a 16 year old, the now 23-year old Soteldo has lined up for the Peixe wearing the even more legendary no. 10 shirt once worn at the club by football god Pele.
In the vein of other past Toronto FC Designated Player signings, Soteldo isn’t blessed with height. Standing at 5’2” tall, the Venezuelan international won’t win many headers, but his technical prowess and ability on the ball in tight spaces could certainly lead fans to reminisce of another short king of days gone by.
Soteldo is a family man and a father of three, which has been something that TFC have looked to use as a selling point in the past and illustrate how ideal a place Toronto is to raise a family, even though they are in their temporary Florida home for the time being.
As with Pablo Piatti’s recruitment, the team will view Soteldo’s ability to contribute on the pitch as a high-skill player as well as his identity as a young father as assets that will see him fit in well within all corners of the squad’s dynamic.
The first thing that seems to be brought up about Soteldo whenever someone is talking about him is certainly his size, but the attacker’s diminutive stature does not translate to the impact he makes on the pitch. He is strong for his size with a powerful stride when he runs and is able to ride tackles well due to his strength and low centre of gravity (think of a sturdier Lorenzo Insigne or a trickier Xherdan Shaqiri). Soteldo also has a powerful shot that he is not afraid to unleash from distance.
Operating predominately as a left winger and occasionally as a no.10/support striker, the instant impression Soteldo makes on spectators is through his quickness and his willingness to take a defender on. He has explosive pace that he uses in tandem with his impressive close-control of the ball to wrong-foot defenders often—starting and stopping and putting anyone trying to mark him on roller skates.
This quickness isn’t exclusive to his straight-line sprints. Soteldo’s lateral quickness and the quickness of his feet allows him to find himself in yards of space just by one sudden feint of his body.
Watch the rapid change in his body direction in this clip from the semifinal of the 2020 Copa Libertadores against Argentina’s Boca Juniors— shifting his weight to his left side to draw the defender into shifting all of his weight onto his right leg in anticipation of Soteldo cutting to the end line, Soteldo explodes into space on his right. Watch for the hitch in the defender’s step after Soteldo sells the feint at about the 0:20 mark of the video.
Yeferson Soteldo played a major role for Santos in their run to 2020 Copa Libertadores final, including this golazo in the semifinal vs Boca.— JG Fútbol (@JGFutbol10) April 22, 2021
Along with Marinho, he's their best player and source of attacking creativity and inspiration.#TFCLivepic.twitter.com/B1Gv8bMB2z
The distance he creates between himself and that primary defender allows him to utilize the space to fire an absolutely inch-perfect strike past a secondary defender (who also bit on the initial move) into the short-side of the goal, leaving the goalkeeper with no chance.
What’s also very impressive about this goal is how quickly he gets the ball out of his feet to take that strike. He makes that cut and sets the ball to strike it in all one touch. That kind of speed and efficiency of movement is invaluable for chance creation. He showed no hesitation, giving the opposition little time to react.
This explosive pace also leads to Soteldo creating a lot of opportunities off of crosses. He is able to leave his defender in the dust and get to the byline to whip in a cross with his left foot in the blink of an eye or to cut back and hit it with his right, leaving the defender in knots. With a completion rate of 43 per cent on his box crosses in 2020, he has been able to find his man with consistent success (think of it in terms of 3-point shooting percentages in basketball, it’s a higher difficulty play, so the percentages of success will be lower— for reference, Steph Curry is shooting 42.5 per cent from three so far this season).
This accuracy extends to Soteldo’s set pieces as well, as he has shown the ability to not only score from dead-ball situations, but to put in excellent balls for his teammates to convert from.
Soteldo’s quickness to create space isn’t limited to his on the ball contributions. Check out the clip below that demonstrates how his direct running off of the ball can open up areas within the opposition’s defense for his teammates to operate in.
This run that he makes against Argentina in the quarter-finals of the 2019 Copa America comes to nothing in the end, but the space it creates—and the attention he draws—is important to note.
Soteldo is located near the top of the box here, occupying the no.10 position in this moment. With his teammate in possession on the left flank towards the halfway line, he decides to make a sudden aggressive run at approximately a 45 degree angle towards the corner of the Argentina penalty area, drawing the attention of two Argentina defenders.
Watch the defenders before his teammate moves to hit that ball and look at the space that run creates. Centre-back Nicolas Otamendi is forced to give chase, leaving two Argentine defenders alone covering about half of pitch in that defensive area on Argentina’s left, with one teammate ahead of them. If a better ball is hit over the top to where Soteldo is running, or if his teammate decided play in the other attacker at the top of the box, the Argentine defense has been stretched out of their formation and is vulnerable in those spaces created by the run.
This type of run is exactly what Toronto needed against Montreal. Jacob Shaffelburg exposed some vulnerabilities in the Montreal backline when he forced them to deal with pace and movement, and a cutting run like this would have the potential to open up lanes of attack for Toronto’s creatives.
Soteldo is a dynamic attacker, with his goals coming from every situation that one could score from (except, you know, headers). As seen in the goal he scored against Boca Juniors, he is particularly adept at cutting inside from the left wing onto his right foot and creating from there. A prominent amount of his contributions also come from making a late or supporting run into the box to finish a cross or a cut back from the opposite flank.
11 - Santos 3x0 Goiás - 09/11/2020 - Brasileirão— Gabriel Carvalho (@Bvelzito) April 23, 2021
Vídeo: Reprodução/Globo pic.twitter.com/e7UQsHc30D
TFC are certainly bringing a committed, hard-working player on board to join the team in its pursuit of silverware. There are certain points in matches where Soteldo looks like he just refuses to be denied; whether it’s through his hard running and determination on the ball (drawing a lot of fouls along the way), or his intelligent improvisational play, he finds a way to create for his side.
With this goal he scored against Botofogo in January, Soteldo’s arsenal of tricks is on full display. With his eyes on his teammate in possession curling across the top of the box, he finds himself in space after quickly accelerating from a stand-still towards the penalty spot after identifying the passing lane that has opened up. The ball that comes in is a deflected effort that arrives at his feet quickly, but he is able to corral the ball as it pops up on him. He instinctively readjusts his hips and squares his shoulders to open his body up to shoot, and finishes past the keeper with an exceptional acrobatic volley.
Santos' Venezuelan forward Yeferson Soteldo scored this lovely flick-up-and-bicycle-kick combo against Botafogo yesterday. pic.twitter.com/SQL4XM4QLF— MUNDIAL (@MundialMag) January 18, 2021
Soteldo also covers a lot of ground on the pitch and while he has shown impressive abilities to contribute going forward, he has a track record of having the willingness and ability to drop deeper into defensive positions to win the ball back and quickly spark counter-attacks. He’ll be able to come back and offer support to the left-back or midfielders in defensive areas and use his pace and skill on the ball to launch a counter attack with ferocity.
As someone who's been enamoured with Yeferson Soteldo since the 2017 Sudamericano Sub-20, covering him in Toronto would be awesome.— Peter Galindo (@GalindoPW) April 23, 2021
2020 was a down year but his #Libertadores numbers were He single-handedly won games for Santos. #TFCLive pic.twitter.com/chvCCuqhpp
Toronto FC have found themselves a very, very good one here. He is highly regarded throughout world football and GM Ali Curtis, President Bill Manning and all of those at the club involved in this deal have seemingly pulled off a fantastic bit of business to bring a player of this quality to the club. The combination of Soteldo and Alejandro Pozuelo has the potential to be one of the most dynamic and effective DP combinations in MLS. He brings the pace and attacking threat the team has been in dire need of in recent times and looks set to hit the ground running for the club sooner rather than later.
With Toronto’s newest designated player now officially signed and confirmed by the club on their social media channels today, the only question left to ask is: how does Toronto FC line up once their new no.30 joins the squad in Orlando?