Scouting Report: Gerardo “Dado” Valenzuela

FC Cincinnati sign 18-year-old Gerardo ‘Dado’ Valenzuela as Homegrown Player

Photo Credit: Megan Lee

FC Cincinnati signed its seventh homegrown player to a first-team contract, inking midfielder Gerardo “Dado” Valenzuela through 2026 with a club option for two additional years.  The signing gives FC Cincinnati some added depth at attacking midfield, the position that Valenzuela has been playing of late for FC Cincinnati 2 in the MLS NEXT Pro league. At just 18 years old, the question on supporters’ minds is whether he is a player that can contribute now, giving Lucho Acosta some much-needed rest, or if he is a player for the future.

The Player

Gerardo “Dado” Valenzuela is a 6′ tall central midfielder from Boca Raton, Florida. He spent two years in the FCC academy before debuting with the “2” team in 2022.

The Game Film

The first thing that jumps off the film about Dado is his craftiness with the ball at his feet. He is technically gifted and especially creative with his first touch. When receiving the ball, he often does something unexpected that throws defenders off-guard. He may step past the ball and receive on his back foot, positioning his body between the defender and the ball, receive the ball with a stepover or immediately chop the ball and change directions. He also has a very good first step when attacking players 1v1. After a stepover or drop of the shoulder, he can explode into space with his first step creating some space to pass or shoot.

The second thing that is noticeable is his strength on the ball. He has decent height but appears to be more wirey than strong. However, he seems to be very good at holding onto the ball under hefty pressure. He plays well with his back to goal, and because of his quality on the ball, he can hold up under pressure and continue to look for ways to get out of trouble. His physicality is noticeable on the defensive side of the ball as well. Though not much of a defensive presence, when he does land a tackle, the opponent feels it. He also isn’t afraid to body up to opponents to try to knock them off the ball.

If FCC is looking for a Lucho Acosta deputy, one quality that Dado can match the Argentinian and even surpass him in is … the head-scratching terrible quality of his free kicks. The caveat here is that I only watched film from five matches, but I’m not sure I saw him hit a quality free kick in any of them. In fact, he doesn’t appear to be a very good ball striker in general. His shots are erratic and he lacks the ability to drive passes with pace and accuracy. Passing, in general, doesn’t appear to be Valenzuela’s forte just yet. It looks to me as if he sees the key pass that needs to be made but takes a heartbeat too long to play it. I’m also not sure if he is confident in his left foot, as he seems to rely on his right quite often.

The Verdict

I can see why Chris Albright signed Gerardo “Dado” Valenzuela to the first team. If nothing else, his talent is evident enough to have other teams sniffing around him as a prospect. He is undeniably technical and appears to have the tools to be a very good player … someday. Similar to Marco Angulo, I could see Dado struggling to convert his clear quality into performances on the pitch. The thing that sets a guy like Malik Pinto apart from the other rookie midfielders is his calmness on the ball and ability to complete simple passes. Unlike Pinto, Dado has flair, but until he can get up to the speed of play with his decision-making, it might be tough for him to put it on display.

All of that said, I could see him getting first-team minutes, but probably as a late-game sub or in the League’s Cup. Even then, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him take on more of a 2nd striker role as opposed to a #10 at first so that he can concentrate on using his strength and creativity to create opportunities without having to be relied on to progress the ball or find key passes.

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