Ecuadorian success masterminded by AguinagaPosted: Wednesday May 01, 2002 7:10 AM
QUITO, Ecuador (AP) -- Alex Aguinaga is considered the brains and the engine behind Ecuador's phenomenal success in World Cup qualifying.
The 33-year-old midfielder is also expected to be coach Hernan Gomez's field general as the team delves into its first ever World Cup finals.
Able to dominate the midfield with superb ball control, Aguinaga often seems to have a sixth sense for knowing where his teammates are on the pitch. Equally dangerous is his spot-on passing, particularly on long balls between 10 and 20 meters (yards).
The versatile playmaker won't shy away from dropping back to bolster the defense or playing on the front line to create chances for the team's younger strikers, Agustin Delgado and Ivan Kaviedes.
"He's one of the most important men on the team," Gomez said.
Ecuador fans consider Aguinaga a symbol of the national squad because of his integrity on the field and his humility off the pitch.
Easily recognizable for his distinct mane of long hair, Aguinaga is known as "El Guero," a nickname given in Mexico to people with light-colored hair.
Since 1989, the midfielder has played for Necaxa in Mexico, where he was voted best foreign player of the 1990s. He helped lead the squad to three league championships in that decade.
In 2000, he and fellow Ecuadorean Delgado led Necaxa to third place in the world club championship in Brazil.
Aguinaga played in 14 of Ecuador's 18 qualifying matches for this year's World Cup, clocking more than 950 minutes of action. He scored two goals and was yellow-carded four times, mostly for arguing with referees.
Aguinaga's life has been steeped in Ecuadorean soccer tradition, beginning with his starring role on the famed children's team, Ciudad de Quito. At 16, he joined the capital city club of Deportivo Quito in the premier national league.
A standout performance in the 1989 Copa Libertadores, South America's top club competition, prompted Necaxa to sign him. He's been there ever since, despite several reported offers to move to Europe.
Aguinaga has also played in seven Copa Americas with Ecuador, the first at age 20 in 1989.