Real Madrid Femenino secured their first ever win on the back of some tantalizing individual performances. Kenti Robles continued to impress at right back, Marta Cardona ran rampant on both flanks, and Jessica Martínez caused constant danger inside the opposition’s box. But there was one player unlike any other who made the team tick — Maite Oroz.
Oroz was one of the nine signings Real Madrid made leading up to their first official season in Primera Iberdrola. The Pamplona-born midfielder joined Real Madrid from Athletic Club and has since started all three of the club’s league matches. Oroz seemed like she had already secured a starting position in David Aznar’s “once de gala” in the first two league games and her performance on Sunday further solidified that thought.
Real Madrid completed a dominant offensive performance against Rayo Vallecano Femenino, orchestrated by Oroz. Throughout the match, she drifted around the center of the park as a deep-lying playmaker. She conducted the team, dictated the tempo of possession with her passes, and constantly buzzed around the pitch to make space for herself (on the ball and as an outlet) and her teammates.
Oroz had the ball at her feet consistently. She dropped deep to receive from the center backs so that she could use her on-ball ability to drive forward or use her passing range to find teammates in build-up. The midfielder also protected the ball extremely well. Her ability to turn out of pressure and play quick one-twos to break the press was fun to watch. No moment in the match showcased this quality quite like her delightful backheel that started a Real Madrid attack when it looked like Oroz was under pressure and could lose the ball.
Oroz read the game superbly. She did not force difficult passes, but almost always found a better option under pressure. Many of her deliveries looked like they weren’t anything to write home about, but Oroz analyzed the defense and played simple passes to open teammates who had the option to go forward or play it to another teammate in space. This is an underrated quality in a midfielder because it allows the team to shift the opposition from side to side and allows wingers and offensive fullbacks the space they need to thrive offensively.
Real Madrid’s offense is very wing-oriented because so much of our attacking talent are fullbacks and wingers. Oroz is integral in involving both the left and right-sided players in the play. She serves as the fulcrum that switches the ball from the attacking right to the attacking left with ease and grace. Oroz’s ability to perform this role makes Las Blancas far less predictable and more dynamic when going forward.
Oroz does not only make simple and easy passes. She can also play penetrative balls that break the lines of the defense and eliminate multiple defenders. Oroz did this a variety of times when she was just above the halfway line, slinging passes to Kosovare Asllani or Sofia Jakobsson, who showed for the ball above the opposition’s 18-yard box.
Oroz was often left alone to guard Ivana Andrés and Babett Peter at the back. As the deepest midfielder, she was tasked with slowing and breaking up counter-attacks when Madrid lost the ball. Rayo was relatively toothless in attack, but this was in part thanks to Oroz. She did well to make tackles and disrupt attackers. The midfielder was able to break up potential opportunities due to the number of aerial duels she battled for and won in midfield.
In the first half, Oroz took most of the set-pieces and usually provided impeccable service. After placing an inch-perfect corner on the head of Ivana Andrés, the captain scored with a beautiful header, but it was called back for a foul. Oroz swung in another quality delivery to Martinez, who headed a shot on target.
Although she was the deep-lying playmaker, Oroz did get forward every once in a while and she looked comfortable in the attacking third. She varied her late runs from midfield, which often went unrewarded, but created problems for the Rayo defense.
Oroz also showed her ability to finish. After having four straight goals annulled for one reason or another, Oroz took the ball down at the top of the box with an immaculate touch. She launched a seething volley into the roof of the net to give Real Madrid a 1-0 lead as they entered halftime.
Oroz’s performance against Rayo Vallecano was masterful and dominant. She displayed quality and composure on and off the ball and made the offense tick against a side that finished above CD Tacón last season. We are beginning to see Real Madrid’s new signings step up in an impactful way, which will hopefully help solidify Las Blancas as one of the top sides in Primera Iberdrola.