By Brian Maurer
Image courtesy of LAFC
Charlotte are monitoring the situation of 25 year old midfielder Latif Blessing. Sources close to Blessing stated that he could make a move to Charlotte FC during the summer window. Blessing (25 years old) is an attacking midfielder who plays for Los Angeles FC (LAFC).
What Would Blessing Bring To Charlotte FC?
Blessing is an attacking midfielder about to enter his prime, who has been a player for LAFC since their inaugural season. He would bring MLS experience, and more specifically, experience playing for an MLS expansion club. This is his sixth season in MLS, and fifth for Los Angeles.
Besides experience, Blessing also provides a high energy work rate. In all five seasons for LAFC, Blessing has been one of their top three presses per 90 leaders of all regularly contributing players. In fact, through his five years with LAFC he has 25.8 defensive pressures per 90. That stat would lead Charlotte FC amongst their regular contributors. His 30% pressure success rate, through five seasons, leads all of Charlotte’s current midfield contributors.
Blessing would also provide some fire power and stability in possession. His five year passing completion rate is 84.2%. This rate would be higher than all Charlotte FC midfielders besides Quinn McNeill, who has started three games, and Brandt Bronico.
Through five seasons he also has 5.87 progressive receptions per 90. Which would lead all Charlotte FC midfielders. These two stats would point to Blessing being able to help maintain possession with his passing, and also find space to receive the ball in progressive areas where the team can than advance into attacking areas.
Adding Blessing would provide Charlotte FC with an asset as both an attacker and as a high energy defender in the midfield. His energy would be a welcome boost to a team that is starting to show signs of tired legs.
Why Would Blessing Leave LAFC?
Playing time. LAFC have been making some major moves in several different positions. While Blessing has been a mainstay in LAFC’s starting lineup through their first four seasons as a club, he has only made nine starts through twenty-one games so far this season. The recent addition of Jhegson Méndez further clogs an already very clogged midfield. The regular minutes Blessing has been accustomed to over the years may be starting to dwindle.
Also, Blessing was brought in during Bob Bradley’s coaching tenure. New coach, Steven Cherundolo, is likely in the process of putting his own blueprints on an already successful squad. Blessing may not be a part of that blueprint in the future.
Blessing is also on an expiring contract*. He will be a free agent at the end of this season, although he does have an option to extend his contract. Blessing may be interested in finding a new team in order to increase his minutes during the remainder of the season to help increase his options going into next year. Whether that is extending his contract, or by increasing the teams interested in his services through free agency. The only way he can garner more interest from other clubs is with minutes and production. Charlotte FC could provide those minutes.
Why would Charlotte FC make this move?
It is a low risk, high reward type move. It is a low risk move because the trade would cost a relatively low fee, as Blessing is on an expiring contract, which may also be less likely to be extended since LAFC have been making other moves to bring in midfielders.
It is also low risk because if Blessing does not end up being a good fit Charlotte FC would not be contractually obligated to keep him long-term. They would be able to let him walk if it does not work out, or exercise an option or contract extension if the fit is solid.
This would be a high reward move because they would be signing a player who is about to be entering his prime and has already shown an ability to succeed at the MLS level. If Blessing were to be a hit, similar to how Andre Shinyashiki has been since his signing, then Charlotte FC would be giving themselves an extra option in terms of the direction they can take the midfield's roster development in the winter window.
Another benefit is that Blessing is familiar with Charlotte FC’s desired style of play, and has started in a similar system regularly. Specifically, Blessing is used to being one of the two 8’s in a 4-3-3 single pivot, which is what both Charlotte FC and LAFC prefer to play. He would be an immediate plug and play starter.
Fans would most likely prefer Charlotte FC to spend big on a young designated player (DP). However, if Charlotte FC are not able to land their preferred target, and are not interested in rapidly switching directions with large sums of money, then Blessing is an absolute no-brainer signing. His playing style would fit well with what Charlotte FC want to do, he has plenty of success and experience playing in MLS, and he is about to enter his prime.
*Found on the MLSPA's upcoming free agents list
**All player stats found on fbref.com