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Agyemang and Charlotte FC's striker situation

By Brian Maurer

Patrick Agyemang driving forward against Orlando City (Photo courtesy of CJ Hellner/TopBin90)

One of the main focal points from Charlotte FC fans this season has been the lack of goals. And rightly so as they are currently T-26th in goals scored (21) in MLS. The obvious focal point in this situation is to berate the striker for the lack of goals. This was the issue with Enzo Copetti and a reason he was moved on.

Now the lack of goalscoring focus has turned to Patrick Agyemang as he has made every start at the nine since Copetti’s transfer, and because he hasn’t scored in seven games. This is the lot of a striker. Score, they love you. Don’t score, they're done with you.

The difference between a Copetti situation, and an Agyemang situation, is that the former was a record transfer fee at the time who was a leading goalscorer in Argentina. The latter was playing college ball at the University of Rhode Island two years ago. To put their goalscoring into another perspective Copetti’s MLS goals cost well over $1 million per goal, and Agyemang’s cost around $50,000.

Waiting for a player’s potential to blossom into results can be an arduous process, especially when that potential is put into the starting eleven week in and week out. The question becomes how long is it worth starting Agyemang to see if his goalscoring becomes more consistent and at the volume of an MLS-caliber starting striker.

His style of play, the touches he gets in the box, and the opportunities he creates indicate that overtime goals will come. But can Charlotte afford to wait?

The three top goalscorers in MLS history are Chris Wondolowski (169), Landon Donovan (146), and Kei Kamara (143). The two strikers on that list both took multiple years to hit the ground running.

Wondolowski was drafted in the Fourth Round in 2005. He didn’t have a double-digit scoring season until his breakout year in 2010. He then scored double-digit goals for 10 consecutive years for the San Jose Earthquakes.

Kamara was drafted in the First Round in 2006. He only had six goal contributions (5g/1a) through his first two seasons (1,390 minutes played). The Sierra Leone international didn’t have a double-digit scoring season until 2010. He then had double-digit scoring seasons in eight of his next nine and double-digit goal contributions for nine consecutive years.

The demands and competition have changed drastically throughout Wondolowski and Kamara’s careers. But they scored through it all once they started peaking. How patiently can Charlotte’s Front Office and Dean Smith wait to see if Agyemang peaks?

There appear to be two solutions that Charlotte can use to take “patient action”. First, increase the amount of attacking volume created by bringing in more creative players. In 2024, the Crown is creating the least amount of attacking volume in their club’s short history (based on expected assisted goals – xAG). They currently rank 28th* in xAG per 90 minutes (.69). If the creativity is increased, the increased number of chances per game could be enough to increase the goalscoring, even if the finishing stays poor in the short term.

Second, bring in a veteran goalscorer who can provide immediate goals. A win-now type of signing with very few question marks attached to their careers. Someone like Chris Wood (32), who has had double-digit goalscoring seasons many times over in the Premier League.

Smith has brought a style of play that has limited mistakes and reduced the number of dropped points in Charlotte. His approach has allowed him to be patient with his young attacking core up top whose average age is 22.33 years old. If you add in that Smith’s primary first attacking substitute lately has been Tyger Smalls the attacker’s average age gets even younger and less experienced.

The lack of experience among that attacking group, in terms of leading and going out and winning games from the front, is playing a role in the inconsistencies in the final third. The question for the summer transfer window is how much do you upend and change that group, and how patient should you be with the young inexperienced core.

*Not including games from Wednesday 6/19/2024