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Charlotte FC Stock Up, Stock Down: Vargas gets the winner, Malanda is one of the best in MLS

By Sam Vanolinda


Kerwin Vargas (right) scored the winner Saturday against DC United (Photo courtesy of CJ Hellner/TopBin90)


Charlotte FC’s defense is starting to look historic as we move into the middle of the MLS season. Another clean sheet Saturday night versus D.C United topped off with a thumping Kerwin Vargas header to secure three points.


It’s a different pace than the high-scoring action of the Euros so far, but watching Dean Smith’s defensive structure is rewarding, and it is bringing results this year. Charlotte sits in fifth place and is only two points away from third.


Everyone called me optimistic when I predicted the team would finish fourth, but I knew with some defensive stability the Crown would start stacking up wins.


Here is the stock up and stock down for Saturday’s game at the Bank.


Stock Up 


Adilson Malanda


Malanda should be a no-brainer all-star after his performances so far this year. He is arguably the best center-back in the league at just 22 years old; it won’t be long until European teams are on the line with Charlotte’s Front Office.


Malanda was 86% on passing against D.C., had three tackles, one last-man tackle, one block, nine clearances, six duels won, and a successful dribble. 


Not only that, but he locked down a dangerous striker in Christian Benteke.

He is the anchor that holds down this resilient defensive line in front of the brick wall that is Kristijan Kahlina.


Kerwin Vargas


Vargas was by far the most electric attacker that Charlotte had on Saturday night. Without him, the game would've been a 0-0 draw.


His header from a whipped Jere Uronen corner was very powerful and an incredible goal deep into first-half stoppage time, he complemented that with six total shots. He was aggressive and shot outside the box when he had the chance, something that is important for a team that does not have high possession. You have to take your chances when you have any space and he was not afraid to let it fly.


With the lack of scoring from the striker position, Abada and Vargas have been stepping up recently with game-winning strikes, it would be great to see how effective they could be if the team brings in a number nine or a certain Polish number 10…


Ashley Westwood


Westwood continued his consistent play on Saturday with a signature performance. He was bossing the midfield and moving the ball forward when Charlotte attacked.


He was 85% on passing, and had 68 touches, with 15 passes into the final third, 10/12 accurate long balls, one tackle won, two clearances, and 15 recoveries.


Westwood is a perfect captain and fits so well into Dean Smith’s play style.


Stock Down


Patrick Agyemang


Aygemang has not been terrible going forward as of recently, but he just can't put the ball into the net. Multiple times his size and speed had the D.C. backline scrambling, but he did not have the composure to finish the chances that he had. 


He had two shots, with 0.53 xG, missing a one-on-one with the goalkeeper after the D.C. center-backs could not handle his hustle as he drove in between them and retrieved the ball, before dragging the ball wide right.  


Finishing is more a mental game, so I can't say how you would fix the issues the team has with the strikers, besides bringing in a veteran with proven finishing ability that could give the team some stability up top. 


Someone like an Olivier Giroud type of player. 


Summary 


Dean Smith has the team rolling this year, and as the wins start to pile up, the confidence will continue to build.


If all the team needs is one goal to secure a win, it must take the pressure off the forward players, and if the team can bring in more firepower in the transfer window, watch out.


The Crown continue their quest back home on Wednesday against Orlando City.


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