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Luciano Vietto's Start-Stop Season

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The young Argentine scored his first Atleti goal last Sunday, now he faces a month out

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Life isn't fair sometimes.

It seemed as if Luciano Vietto's adjustment period at the Calderón was nearing an end this past Sunday, as his 83rd minute goal secured a point for Atlético Madrid against their nearest rivals. Say what you will about the...less-than-clinical bundled finish at the back post, but a goal is a goal. Both player and team deserved the result and looked forward to a quiet, productive international break, when Vietto would continue to strengthen and adapt.

On Thursday, however, the news broke that Vietto needed surgery to treat acute appendicitis and he'll be out for four weeks. So much for a quiet, productive international break.

The four-week prognosis means the 21-year-old may miss Atleti's entire fixture slate prior to the next international break: La Liga games against Real Sociedad, Valencia, Deportivo and Sporting Gijón, as well as the Champions League doubleheader with FC Astana.

This isn't so much about the team as it is about the player. Atleti can and probably will be fine while Vietto is sidelined. Antoine Griezmann (who scored for France yesterday), Ángel Correa and the quickly-improving Jackson Martínez should be able to shoulder the load. And Fernando Torres is always available in reserve.

No, the concern here is how this messes with Vietto's head and his confidence, which got as big a boost as it can get after his goal Sunday. The talent is clearly there - but a month out is the worst thing that could happen to him now.

If you'll recall, Vietto led Villarreal with 12 league goals during his first season in Europe (shoutout to Villarreal USA, hi guys!). He found himself in-and-out of Marcelino's XI in the league, but he tore up the Europa League with eight goals in 12 appearances, including a crucial brace in the Round of 32 that sent Red Bull Salzburg out. He also put in a sizzling performance at the Calderón in December, where he turned Diego Godín inside-out on a late goal - in the 83rd minute, coincidentally - that handed Villarreal three points.

Vietto's transition to life in red and white hasn't been smooth. He's only made two starts - against Galatasaray and Eibar nearly a month ago - but he was able to do something last week that he hadn't been able to do before. No, silly, not the goal: he started to get touches inside the box.

Vietto heat map vs. Benfica

Vietto heat map vs. Real Madrid

The first heat map is from Atleti's 2-1 loss to Benfica last Wednesday. Vietto entered that match 20 minutes from time and he was all over the pitch - but not in a good way. Only half his touches even came in the Benfica half and he did not have an attempt at goal. It was a poor, ineffective performance, and Benfica conquered the colchoneros.

Now, take a look at the second map. Vietto came on right before the hour against Real Madrid and provided a much more focused performance, with plenty of touches inside or just outside the 18-yard box. He drifted centrally more than he did against Benfica and utilized his pace to get to more dangerous areas - like the back post, where he opened his Atleti account less than 10 minutes from time.

Vietto achieved a breakthrough on Sunday - but now he's suffered a setback that will delay his progress a month or possibly more. It's definitely a tough break, and Atleti fans have to hope he'll pick up right where he left off, even if he doesn't return until the end of November. Vietto is too young and too skilled to have a lost season on his CV.