There are some brilliant goalkeepers in world football, Alisson from Liverpool and Marc-André ter Stegen of Barcelona. But deep in the niché world of the 2. Bundesliga, there is a keeper turning heads. This is Arminia Bielefeld’s Stefan Ortega. Ortega is in his second stint at Arminia Bielefeld after the Ostwestfalen club was relegated to the 3. Liga in 2014. The Calden native played three seasons at 1860 Munich. Ironically after their relegation, he returned to Bielefeld.
Ortega has gained a reputation for being serviceable when playing the ball long to the target man or deep to the flanks. Over his career, Ortega averages 15.56 long passes per game at 67.6% completion. This season the shot-stopper surpasses his career average in long passes with 17.92 long passes per game. But he is down on completion percentage at only 65.5%. Let’s see Ortega in action and compare him to the rest of the league.
In our first situation against Stuttgart, we see the range of long ball Ortega can play. Against teams that press intensely, Uwe Neuhaus’ tactics for Ortega are to play longer rather than play the ball out from the back unlike Manchester City. With Stuttgart numbers forward and central, this enables long diagonal balls to be performed by Ortega. From the 27 attempts, Ortega completed 22 passes. Here, Ortega produces an excellent long ball right to the feet of Cedric Brunner.
The final scenario is much of the same as Ortega looks to play long and diagonal to a teammate. Although this time, Ortega is well and truly out of the box. While he could play short to Joan Simun Edmundsson, and try and retain possession. Ortega catches Hannover right-back, Sebastian Jung, trying to cheat on the play. This allows Jonathan Clauss to get in behind Jung and exploit the vacant space. A pinpoint ball from Ortega allows Bielefeld to enter their attacking third.
The numbers suggest that Ortega is more than capable of hitting a long pass if required. Although being ranked just 14th in completion percentage, Ortega is 2nd in long passes completed this season with Bochum’s Manuel Riemann completing more per game. With teams that press more, Ortega’s long ball arsenal is required more than is ideal.
We talk about footwork and the importance of it quite frequently when discussing goalkeepers. It’s imperative and a fundamental component of being more than just a “good” keeper. Ortega is aggressive when it comes to his footwork, he likes to be active and off his line if the situation allows him. This section of the analysis looks at Ortega’s footwork and positioning.
We have two situations showcasing the footwork and positioning of Ortega. The inaugural play against Wehen Wiesbaden shows two things; one being the positive positioning of Ortega who is camped at the six-yard line. Two, if a shot comes from Daniel-Kofi Kyereh, Ortega will be in a strong position to see the ball early and make movements to cut down the angle. Kyereh does get a shot off, and Ortega pulls off an excellent save.
The other situation comes from a corner; certain keepers have different ways of setting up. Keepers either camp on the edge of the six-yard box or on the goal-line. Some keepers are linear to the by-line while some will be on a 45-degree angle. The secondary set-up can allow for more effortless movement and better tracking of the ball. In this situation, Ortega uses the first set-up.
Much like having good footwork, the shot-stopping aspect is equally as important. Failure to be good at shot-stopping and a keeper will find himself/herself warming the bench for the remainder of the season. Ortega has been at his best this season, in 25 appearances the Calden native has only conceded 24 goals, a 2. Bundesliga best. On average, Ortega makes just 2.99 saves per game. A testament to the defence in front of him. This doesn’t mean Ortega hasn’t been busy; our final section showcases Ortega’s at his shot-stopping best.
The first save comes against Heidenheim in a 0-0 draw. Heidenheim have transitioned well, and Tim Kleindienst has the ball. Ortega, much like the first situation in our footwork section, sees the keeper on the six-yard box line. This enables Ortega to at the very least, better access to make the save, considering there aren’t any Bielefeld defenders in the line of fire.
Taking the initial position was important as Kleindienst makes an audacious effort of the Bielefeld goal. Ortega sticks out his left hand and pulls off a fantastic, more importantly, he is able to gather and win possession back for Bielefeld. The save itself is quite risky, in those sorts of situations you would rather Ortega to parry the ball out for a throw-in or a corner.
The final save is once again right out of the top draw, although this time there are several different factors at play. Sandhausen Dennis Diekmeier plays a fantastic cross towards the edge of the six-yard box. In a split second Ortega needs to decide whether to come out and punch/collect, or retreat to the goal-line. The risk of trying to punch or collect leaves a vacant goal. Ortega does this quite a bit for better or worse; he pivots forward before pushing back to base.
Sandhausen striker Kevin Behrens can put the header on goal, without being sure if the ball is going in or wide Ortega lunges. With just his fingertips, Ortega pulls off an excellent save to force a Sandhausen corner. Those particular situations can be tricky if you dive and fake the save as some keepers do. You can look quite silly if the ball trickles in, Ortega doesn’t take that chance and makes a great. At times when the Bielefeld defence has been exposed, Ortega has been more than up to the task.
It’s clear to most that Ortega is the best goalkeeper in the 2. Bundesliga with a couple coming close. Ortega is a model of consistency, strong fundamentals and excellent shot-stopping abilities. It’s no wonder Bayer Leverkusen intensely pursued the Arminia Bielefeld keeper in the winter transfer window to challenge Lukas Hradecky. However, Bielefeld fans will see Ortega between the sticks for the considerable future.