Nationality: Jamaican (capped at U22 level)
Weight: 172 lbs
Current Club: Greenville Triumph (Transfer from Fort Lauderdale)
Alternate Position(s): Central Midfield
Preferred Foot: Right
Venton Evans came into the USL League One season with a bang, scoring a beautiful header from close range in the 14th minute of his debut. For many people, his was a name that hadn’t been heard before. Having just transferred from Jamaican Premier League side University of West Indies FC, the relatively unknown right winger made sure people would remember his name. Despite the strong start, it was still very much a big transition to a new league and it was an up and down year for Evans. Evans’ switch to the right wing was also very recent, which made the transition to a new league even harder. Averaging 69 minutes per game, he played in 21 of Fort Lauderdale’s League One matches. Even with 21 matches under his belt, he only got 6 full 90 minute runs. I don’t know if this is an issue of stamina or just the academy conundrum (more likely the latter), but he’ll definitely be looking for some consistency in 2022.
Venton’s primary role for Fort Lauderdale was on the right wing, but he tended to move between both wings throughout the season, even switching wings during games on a frequent basis. This was a big shift for Venton as he tended to play as a CM/DM for one of his more recent clubs and at the international level. You can see a lot of that desire to play centrally in Venton’s game, even when he’s playing out on the wings. His ability to drift inside and rotate with other members of the front line and midfield caused a lot of problems for opposing defenses and his positioning, even if he didn’t score or assist, tended to help open up space for FTL to work the ball forward. It will be interesting to see how Greenville decide to deploy Venton Evans in 2022 with the needs they have. They were desperate for more versatility in attack at some points in the season, but they also only have 3 central midfielders as of the publishing of this article. Will Venton move back into that space or will he continue to develop his skills as a winger? Only time will tell and honestly, I’d be pretty excited about both.
One of the particularly threatening aspects of Evans’ game this season was his ability to attack dangerous spaces and specifically attacking the seam between the Fullback and CB. He made all kinds of dangerous runs through that space when defenders gave him an inch and it resulted in some dangerous chances and even some goals. Even when it wasn’t through the seam, if Evans made a run behind the defense, there was likely some uneasiness along the back line. You can see in both of the shots below, he pounces on any space you leave in between defenders. Ironically, a lot of the intelligence and awareness to move into these areas comes from typically being the person to pass to people making these runs. He made passes like this quite frequently for Jamaica at the Lima Tournament in 2019.
It wasn’t just runs in behind that aided in the FTL attack though. His awareness to drift inside, pick up passes, and keep progressing the ball forward were important when he was on the field.. You can see from these passing and heat maps that he spends a lot of time within the width of the penalty area. Part of this was the tactical set up of FTL as they moved into the final third and some of this is just that Evans seems to feel more at home the more central he sits.
Credit for all four pictures: USL League One Match Center/Opta
In this game against NCFC, he didn’t light up the field, but he put in a good shift for his team. He worked hard to win the ball back, helped progress the ball, and drifted into the center of the field and sets up a nice goal with the pre-assist. you can see in this play how he’s within sprinting distance of breaking up a wayward pass before drifting inside to help build play into the box, before making a beautiful pass that helps contribute to a goal.
While Evans isn’t the most flashy player who’s lighting up the stats boards, he’s efficient, reliable, and good at interrupting attacking plays. In a team that was easily dribbled past, Evans was the 3rd lowest member of the FTL team in the “dribbled past per90 stat. The only players who were dribbled past less were Hundaal and Curry, who played striker (CBs aren’t typically looking to McGeady spin a pressing striker). Evans broke up play well, completing as many tackles per 90 as Max Hemmings and Don Smart and a good bit more than any winger on the Triumph. A lot of this had to do with his propensity to track back quickly and work to pressure and recover the ball. You can see on his heat maps that he had a lot of action in FTL’s own half most games, both in and out of possession. On the dribble, he’s quite efficient, completing 59% of his dribbles, which was a higher percentage than anyone on the Triumph other than Don Smart managed last season. The caveat to this is that he’s not a particularly progressive dribbler on the wing, but he’s good at keeping the ball. He often used his dribbling ability as a safety mechanism rather than to take on defenders 1v1 (he has done this, it’s just not quite his forte as of yet. I think it may have more to do with learning a new position rather than his ability) and it typically works, rarely being dispossessed or losing possession in any way. Even so, there were some flashes of confidence in taking on defenders and it could be exciting to see that continue to develop. He’s also got a pretty good first touch, securing the ball at his feet quickly to help keep play moving.
Another point to highlight is his strength, which is a big part of his ball carrying and retention. You can see in the clip below how he receives the ball, gets his back to the defender, helps progress play via the overlapping full back, and it ends up resulting in a goal.
PASSING AND CROSSING
Venton definitely looked like he had a tough time adjusting to the new position from this perspective. He has the 4th lowest cross percentage in the league of people above 0% with 9%. This is an interesting stat when thinking about Greenville’s play style for portions of last year, though this could indicate a change. Outside of crosses though, he had a very efficient passing display being well above average in the opponents half as seen in the radar at the top. I really think that Evans is far better at progressing the ball centrally than he has shown out wide so far. I could watch his Jamaican U22 highlights on repeat forever because of this reason. See below:
Venton Evans is an incredibly versatile player with huge upside no matter where he plays. Secure on the ball, progressive, and quite intelligent, we’ll likely see a good season from the Jamaican midfielder. I’d expect his trajectory to continue upward as he adapts to a new league and position (if he continues as a winger). As a Triumph fan myself, I’m quite excited about the signing’s possibilities. Welcome to Greenville, Venton!
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*Featured Image Credit to Inter Miami CF*