By Brian Maurer
Image courtesy of FC Porto
Charlotte FC are signing José Tavares from Porto's development program to be their first ever MLS NEXT Pro coach. Tavares was Porto’s U19 coach this past season and has been involved in various different positions in Porto’s development program for over a decade. He has also been an assistant coach for Luís Castro, who currently coaches for recently promoted, Brazilian side Botafogo.
What Is MLS NEXT Pro?
MLS NEXT Pro is the new developmental league for MLS teams. It is a professional league, considered a tier below MLS, but higher than the academy level. One way to look at MLS NEXT Pro is that it is a bridge for players from the academy level to MLS. 2022 was the inaugural season for the league. Charlotte FC will be joining MLS NEXT Pro for the start of next season.
Tavares’ Developmental Background
One of the great recent achievements was Porto’s U19 team winning the 2019 UEFA Youth League. At the time Tavares was the academy manager. Some of the players on that cup winning side have gone on to become big time prospects around the world. Here is a list of some of the elite talent that came from that team and whom Tavares has helped develop:
Diogo Costa, who is now the starting goalkeeper for Porto’s senior team, and who helped them become the 2022 Portuguese champions.
Fábio Vieira, who is now a regular contributing midfielder for Porto’s senior team, and also helped them win the Portuguese title this past year. He was sold to Arsenal this summer for a reported 35 million euros*.
Fábio Silva, a highly touted prospect who is currently on loan with Belgian side Anderlecht from Premier League team Wolverhampton. Wolverhampton paid** a reported 35 million pounds for Silva in 2020.
João Mário, starting defender for Porto’s senior team and 2022 Portuguese champion.
Vitinha, starting midfielder for Porto’s senior team that won the 2022 Portuguese championship. Vitinha was transferred*** to Paris Saint-Germain this summer for a reported 40 million euros.
What is clear from this recent crop of players is that Tavares is experienced at progressing players successfully through the youth ranks into being regular contributors for the first team. If he can provide a similar leadership role for the players on Charlotte FC’s MLS NEXT Pro team, then Charlotte should see players who are developing from the academy through to the first team using the MLS NEXT Pro team as a bridge to help get them the professional experience they need to succeed.
Style Of Play: A Look At Castro’s Shakhtar Donetsk
Based on Tavares being an understudy for Castro, Charlotte FC should expect a coach with a similar coaching philosophy to current head coach Christian Lattanzio. Based on an analysis done by Niklas Hemmer-Hiltenkamp on Total Football Analysis⁺, Castro used an attacking style 4-2-3-1 which would transition into a 4-1-4-1 when defending while he was the coach for Shakhtar Donetsk. Hemmer-Hiltenkamp reported that Castro would have the fullbacks push up into the wide spaces and have his midfield stay compact in central areas to provide multiple methods of progressing the ball through the middle. Here is a diagram below to provide a visual example:
This is one example of the shape that Castro used to progress the ball through the middle, according to Hemmer-Hiltenkamp. While there were several different methods that Castro used in attack, the main focus was to progress the ball centrally. This is a similar approach to how Lattanzio likes to set up attacking phases. As you can see in the above visual it looks similar to how Lattanzio establishes Charlotte FC’s shape. A difference being that Lattanzio would have a fullback pull inside to become a pivot alongside a single defensive midfielder.
Philosophy and Development
Tavares looks to be an ideal match to be Charlotte FC’s inaugural MLS NEXT Pro coach. He has over a decade of experience working in the developmental program at Porto, which is one of the best programs in the world. He has success developing players from the academy into high level senior prospects earning big time transfer fees to some of the most famous clubs in the world.
This fits with Charlotte’s desire to develop stars in the Carolinas. Based on the attacking philosophy of Castro, who Tavares was an assistant under, it appears that Tavares will be preaching a similar philosophy with the MLS NEXT Pro team that Lattanzio preaches with the senior squad.
*Transfer fees and stats were found in articles and links on transfermarkt.us, unless otherwise mentioned.
**Found on theathletic.com; article was written by Steve Madeley
***Found on ESPN.com; article was written by Adriana Garcia.
⁺I highly recommend Total Football Analysis, they have a ton of different analytical breakdowns from many different writers from around the world.