Cecilio Domínguez: Breaking down Austin FC’s new star

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Cecilio Dominguez pictured with the Austin FC logo
Turning 26-years-old the day beIN SPORTS journalist Roberto Rojas broke the news, Paraguayan international Cecilio Domínguez gave Austin FC fans a birthday gift of his own by being reported to becoming the capital side’s second-ever signing. Officially announced as an Austin FC player on August 24, 2020, Domínguez will be coming stateside from Argentinian club Independiente for a reported $4 million transfer fee as the club’s first Designated Player (DP) and will be loaned back to Paraguayan outfit Club Guaraní until January 2021.

Who is Cecilio Domínguez?

Born in Asunción, Paraguay, Domínguez has made a name for himself across Latin America as a quick fleet-footed winger who is capable of the dramatic and fantastic on his day; however, those who have ever followed the Paraguayan will know those days don’t come as often as one would hope.

Quickly rising through the youth ranks, Domínguez made his professional debut just outside of the Paraguayan capital for Sol de América at the early age of 17. He would finish his 4 seasons at Sol de América with 11 goals in 89 appearances (0.12 goals/game) before making a brief and uneventful loan spell at Club Nacional in 2014 — registering 0 goals in just 2 Copa Libertadores appearances (via Wikipedia).

The same, however, can’t be said about his next venture at Cerro Porteño as he’d go on have his best years at the Paraguayan club (33 goals in 81 appearances, 0.41 goals/game), including a career-high 2016 season of 26 goals in 42 appearances across all competitions.

Cecilio Dominguez in an Independiente kit.
Photo by D10

Such success won Domínguez big moves to Latin American giants such as Club America and Independiente, but since leaving his native country, the winger has struggled to consistently find the same level of success he achieved in Paraguay — scoring 21 goals in 74 appearances (0.28 goals/game) for Club America and 8 goals in 42 appearances (0.19 goals/game) for Independiente (via Transfermrkt).

Despite his struggles for consistency abroad, he has impressed enough over his career to amass a respectable 17 appearances for the Paraguayan national team. Although he has yet to find the back of the net for La Albirroja and more than half of those appearances are off of the bench, featuring for the national team on a fairly consistent basis is no small feat and will bring valuable experience for a young Austin FC franchise.

Playing Style

Like his new teammate Rodney Redes, Cecilio Domínguez is flexible enough to play any position across a front three as either a left or right winger, or even as a striker. Unlike his countryman, however, the 26-year-old is a natural winger — preferring to play on the left, giving him the option to either cut inside onto his stronger right foot or beat his man down the line to put in a cross on his left foot. His willingness and flexibility to take either option on the wing makes him a headache for opposition fullbacks to deal with as he’s not the stereotypical one-dimensional inverted winger who’s always to looking to cut inside and have shot at goal. He is simply looking for whatever path puts him in the most dangerous space possible, and his greatest asset is his ability to create that space.

The Paraguayan’s ability on-the-ball sets him apart from the competition as he has it in his locker to carve open almost any CONMEBOL or CONCACAF defense on his day and make himself a real weapon down the wing. His exceptional close control, ability to wriggle his way out of almost any situation, quick unpredictable change of pace, and his handy knack of drawing fouls make him such an exciting player to watch and such a valuable creative outlet for any team to have when trying to break down a defense. Not to say the Paraguayan international is anywhere near the same level, but to give more of a mental picture of what to maybe expect, his style of play on the ball bears a rough resemblance to Real Madrid superstar Eden Hazard.

 

“Cecigol”, as he was affectionately nicknamed by the America faithful, carries confidence in boatloads, never hesitating to go the extra mile with an extra trick or body feint to seize the spotlight and get butts out of seats. The perfect encapsulation of the 26-year-old’s strong personality was his game-winning penalty in 2017 during the Clasico Capitalino between America and Pumas, one of Mexico’s biggest and most heated club rivalries. The game was all tied up at 1-1 and poised for a draw when Pumas conceded a second penalty late on in the 78th minute. Earlier in the match, America bottled their chance to score from the spot after primary penalty taker Silvio Romero had his cheeky Panenka attempt denied. Former America striker Darwin Quintero proceeded to walk up to the penalty spot ready to make amends for Romero’s previous extravagant miss before realizing Domínguez was already at the spot refusing to walk away from a potential game-winner. Entrusted with a chance to decide the game at home in the famous Estadio Azteca against one of their biggest rivals, the Paraguayan steadied himself and confidently marched up to the spot before dropping the jaws of thousands of stunned fans with an outrageous second Panenka — this time beating the keeper.

Cecilio Dominguez scoring his Panenka penalty against Pumas

Although not a regular goalscorer, outside of penalties (with an abnormal amount of Panenkas) and typical far post finishes after cutting onto his right foot from the left, an interesting amount of the Paraguayan’s goals come from headers. Normally unusual for wingers that aren’t named Cristiano Ronaldo, the 5’10 winger is surprisingly great in the air carrying an impressive vertical, smart positioning, and the rare ability to perfectly time and weigh his headers consistently.

What to be wary of

Despite Cecilio Domínguez’s clear talent and ability in the final third, it is clear to see that his output in front of goal has fallen off since his spell at Cerro Porteno in 2016.

But why is that?

As much as I’d like to say it’s due to a shift in focus and he’s bagging assists left and right, unfortunately, it is not that. During his breakout season at Cerro Porteno, Domínguez averaged an impressive 0.8 goals + assists per 90 minutes, domestically (via FBref). Since then, his next best full league season came in 2017-2018 for America at 0.39 goals + assists per 90 minutes, and his production has only continued to drop with 0.29 goals + assists per 90 minutes for Independiente’s 2019-2020 league campaign.

The real answer is simply that no one outside of Domínguez himself knows. Fans have speculated it may be due to potential homesickness, injuries, lack of focus, lack of dedication, or that he is over-complicating his game. All of the above are valid possibilities as to why the 26-year-old has been inconsistent, but aside injuries derailing his progress, none are confirmed and concrete reasons, meaning that, at this point, Austin FC fans just have to expect inconsistency from Cecigol.

While he is an extremely talented player on his day, those days have not come often enough over the past few seasons. We’ll see if head coach Josh Wolff can manage to keep the unpredictable Paraguayan on track under the Austin lights, but until then, Los Verdes will just have to accept that there may be some nights Domínguez will leave you wanting more. 

Cecigol playing for Club America
Photo via América Monumental by Jam Media

It is also important to remember that regardless of whether Domínguez is switched on or off during a game, he is first-and-foremost not a goalscorer. He is a creator with an eye for goal. With the exception of his 2016 season at Cerro Porteno, to date, he has not been the primary goal threat of any team as his strengths lie in creating chances and opportunities for his team — whether or not those chances end up with him or teammates is up to the Paraguayan international. Although he is surprisingly wonderful in the air and can pose a threat in the box with his smart and quick movement, that is simply not his game. He is not a goal-crazy “fox-in-the-box” player who is desperate to get himself in goal-scoring positions off the ball. The twinkle-toed winger’s game is to make the opposition fullback’s day absolute hell, attract more bodies to put on their backsides, gather a few Ooo’s and Ahh’s from the crowd, get into the box and either draw contact or, hopefully, pick out a teammate or score himself. It is not the most efficient way to nab goals, but that is exactly why he should not be expected to score loads of them.

It’s tempting to think, “Well, plenty of other wingers has a similar skillset and they’re scoring more goals. Why can’t Cecigol?” My answer to that would simply be if he could, then he’d probably be world-class or playing somewhere else already. It’s harsh, but it’s just the truth — players with Cecilio Domínguez’s skillset that are consistent and have a stronger goal record are playing for the best teams in the world. Not everyone can be Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. Of course, no one expects him to come into McKalla Place and look like the second coming of Pelé and it’s not to say that Josh Wolff can’t get more goals out of the Paraguayan winger, but it is important to remember that although this is an exciting signing for Los Verdes, he is not a winger that is guaranteed to score loads of goals and light up the MLS — his inconsistencies may very well follow him to the Texas capital.

How will Cecilio Domínguez fit into Austin FC?

Compared to my previous breakdown of inaugural signing Rodney Redes, predicting where Cecilio Domínguez will line up for Austin FC is pretty simple and straightforward. Although positionally flexible, Cecigol is well-established and suited as a left-winger in a three-man front line.

In my predicted 4-3-3 formation, I expect the 26-year-old Paraguayan to stray a little bit farther away from the center on the park and towards the touchline where he can find more space to get on the ball and work his magic. This will provide a much greater natural width for Wolff’s side and alleviate pressure on the left-back to bomb up and down the wing to stretch the defense since Domínguez is much less dependent on playing off of another player to create a chance than Redes. Now that the left-back has less pressure to push forward while Austin are in possession, this allows even greater freedom for the right-back to push forward knowing that he’ll still have three men back on defense while he ventures forward to support and overlap the more central inside forward Redes.

The width Cecigol provides in possession also frees up more space for the left central midfielder to run into to provide an extra man up or as a late runner into the box, or the added with frees up space for the central striker to shuffle into which in turn allows Redes to move exactly where he wants to be – closer to goal.

Predicted Austin FC formation with Redes and Cecilio Domínguez

Off-the-ball, Domínguez isn’t nearly as eager to track back as Redes, so if Wolff wants to save the 26-year-old’s pace and energy for the counter, he can keep Cecigol up top with the striker and Redes will definitely track back to help out in the midfield. If Wolff really wants to get the most goals as possible out of Redes and unlock his offensive potential, he could keep the 20-year-old forward up top with the rest of the front three to set up a daunting counterattack.

In this predicted system, Cecilio Domínguez and Rodney Redes are perfect foils for each other and bring balance to an increasingly flexible Austin FC side.

Although not the huge Hollywood signing that Austinites dreamed of, Domínguez is coming at no small fee. $4 million isn’t chump change for a brand new MLS side with only 2 players, and he’s going to be taking up one DP spot out of the available three. While Redes’ signing hinted that the Austin FC front office would look to deliver on Club President Andy Loughnane’s word of “pursuing the Latin American market perhaps stronger than others” and search for more under-the-radar signings rather than a household name, the signing of Cecigol confirms their transfer strategy. 

The Paraguayan international will also take up the club’s second international spot out of their allotted eight.

On his day, Cecilio Domínguez is clearly a great talent and worth the $4 million Austin FC spent on him, however, can Josh Wolff do what Latin American giants Independiente and America couldn’t and get the Paraguayan winger firing at all cylinders on a consistent basis?

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