Photo courtesy Nashville SC
Nashville SC fans have been waiting for their club to sign Ivorian striker Aké Loba for over a year. In the time since their interest was first rumored, however, he signed – and played a season and a half – with one of the Western Hemisphere’s biggest clubs: Liga MX’s Monterrey.
I caught up with Eddie Razo of the Rayados90 podcast, which covers the team en inglés for the scoop on what Loba brought to Rayados in his year there – and in his time before that with another Mexican club, Querétaro.
Tim Sullivan: First things first, what sort of player is Loba? Is he pure striker or has he contributed on the wing for Monterrey?
Eddie Rado: It’s hard to get a feel for what type of player he is, considering his age and playing time, but what I can say is that he’s a striker. Loba lacks the pace and dribbling that you might want from someone out on the wing. Loba played plenty on the wing in Monterrey, but that was more due to Monterrey not having a left-winger and putting someone there out of necessity. Nonetheless, when asked to play striker, Loba found the back of the net; any Nashville fan should look at the CCL fixture on the road against Columbus Crew (where he scored) to get an idea of how Loba plays when he’s the sole striker against MLS competition.
TS: What are some of the more exciting aspects of his game? What are some things that were sources of frustration for the Rayados fans and team?
ER: An exciting aspect of Loba’s game is that he seems to always be in the right place at the right time to score a goal, it’s not sexy, but this stood out in the limited playing time Loba saw in Monterrey. He’s in his early 20’s, so there’s plenty of room to grow and add more tools to his game, but the fact that he has the sense to put himself in a position to take advantage of scoring chances is a good quality to have.
TS: Monterrey won a bidding war against Nashville last Winter (inasmuch as MLS teams are ever actually in a bidding war with Liga MX). What made Rayados excited to grab him? Was his time at Querétaro that impressive, was it a player type they really wanted?
ER: Loba came off playing for a Querétaro squad that made the playoffs surprisingly, and he showed flashes that he might have the potential for a club whose goal is to win the league every campaign. There was reported interest from Tigres, so the rivalry played a part in the transfer. I think what Monterrey had planned is that Loba could’ve been the potential replacement for Rogelio Funes Mori, Loba was 21/22 when they grabbed him, and Funes Mori is now in his 30’s. The idea was a good one but considering Funes Mori can still play at a high level, perhaps it was too early to start thinking about finding someone to replace the current striker.
TS: On the other side of the coin, things certainly didn’t work out for him in Nuevo Leon. What went wrong?
ER: I don’t think he did anything wrong; it’s just there’s a log jam at striker. Rogelio Funes Mori and Vincent Janssen were ahead of him in the pecking order, which is why his playing time was limited. There was talk about possibly loaning him out for a year or two and then having him come back because, as a foreign play, he was using a limited spot. In the end, he needed more playing time, and that wasn’t going to happen at Monterrey, barring injuries.