By Brian Maurer and Tyler Trent
Enzo Copetti thanks a teammate for an assist. Photo courtesy of Juano Tesone.
Enzo Copetti announced himself as a legitimate out and out number nine with his 2022 season for Racing Club. The 26-year-old scored 21 goals this past year and his stellar season led Charlotte FC to offer a large transfer fee for his services in MLS. In this article, Brian and Tyler take a look at several of the traits that stand out about Copetti’s game and how he could fit into Charlotte FC’s system for 2023.
Hold up play
Radar courtesy of Ben Griffis.
Copetti was one of the best amongst Argentinian league strikers at aerial duels and scoring in 2022. Most of his scoring was done from taking a few high quality shots per game. He is not a quantity shot taker, but a quality shot taker. This is also where his aerial dominance comes in, as he received a high number of crosses from the wings and slots those crosses home with headers in and around the six yard box.
He was also proficient at setting up his teammates for shots. His game tape, which we will dig into later, showed the various ways he connects with his teammates. Copetti was also willing to relentlessly press and get stuck in to tackle the opposition when needed.
Copetti’s stats show that he is willing to help his team in multiple ways, and also demonstrates that he has a high work rate.
The Copetti Tape
Matches Watched (all from 2022):
Gimnasia y Esgrima Vs Racing Club
River Plate Vs. Racing Club (2/27/22)
Racing Club Vs San Lorenzo
Racing Club Vs Club Atlético Tucumán
During the match between Racing Club and Gimnasia y Esgrima there are two specific plays that demonstrate the type of high workrate striker Copetti is. The first play came in the 26th minute.
The ball was lofted towards Gimnasia’s backline with Copetti chasing down the ball. On this play there were two defenders and Copetti, and even in a 2 v 1 over a relatively aimless long ball Copetti out hustles and out positions the opposition to win the ball and calmly tuck the shot in past the keeper. This was a complete hustle play that should not have been able to happen, but Copetti just out worked the opposition in that moment and finished off a goal from nothing.
The second play that stands out was in the 77th minute. Copetti turns the ball over in the final third while attempting a backheel pass to a teammate. This turnover leads to a potential transitional attack for Gimnasia. Noticing this, Copetti tracks the ball down all the way across the field and recovers possession near his own corner flag, sprinting nearly the full length of the pitch.
This is another total hustle play from the Argentinian striker. After turning the ball over, he stops the transitional attack by chasing the ball down and recovering possession to help take accountability for his error with his play on the pitch. It should also be reiterated that he did this in the 77th minute of a game when his team was down 3-1. This shows he has fight in him for the full 90 minutes even when his team is down and almost out.
Copetti is a player that will press and work hard for his team no matter the time in the match. From the first whistle, Copetti is often at full sprint forcing early turnovers.
Much like his pressing intensity, Copetti often plays like he is fighting to score a tying goal in a World Cup Final regardless of the score or minute of the match. He is often seen placing the ball for opposing goalkeepers early in matches or while winning to get the ball in play so he can begin pressing to win the ball back again and get on the attack. There’s an urgency to his game that is infectious for his team and he is willing to do anything to win.
In both a match against Gimnasia, and an earlier match in the season against River Plate, Copetti showed his ability to set up his teammates for shots as well as releasing them into the final third to initiate attacking opportunities.
In the final third Copetti likes to set up in the box. He will drag a center back (CB) with him which creates an opening in the defense. He positions himself in a way to receive the ball from his teammate in these situations where the defending CB is stuck on Copetti’s back essentially neutralizing him from the play. This set up allows the Argentinian to receive the ball from a teammate and then immediately play the ball back into space for a shot which is open because of the space that Copetti creates by dragging CBs out of position when they are marking him.
In a match against Atlético Tucumán last season, Copetti was also involved in a 1-2 combination play where he held the ball up and absorbed pressure from three defenders which opened up space for his teammate. Copetti found the return pass to his teammate who scored in the space that Copetti created by absorbing all the pressure (visual below).
This attribute to his game will be crucial with Karol Świderski working behind Copetti and also with wingers who like to play the ball into the forward and continue runs down the wing and into the final third to set up attacking opportunities.
Final Third Movement and Aerial Attacking
Copetti, in the second half against River Plate, was constantly making runs in between the River Plate CB pairing. He was looking for longballs over the top and crosses into the box, trying to will Racing Club back into the game as they were down 2-0. Copetti’s hustle, constant aggression and off ball runs helped provide the spark for Racing Club to comeback and draw 2-2.
On his goal he waited for the space between the CBs to open up a bit too wide, allowing him to try and drive in towards the near post and head a goal towards the far post. In this situation he noticed that there was extra space between the CBs and drove into it leaving himself unmarked (visual below).
On the second goal Copetti was able to win another aerial duel from a cross. This time heading it back into the mixer where a teammate was able to finish off the play by putting in a goal. This second goal led Racing Club back to a 2-2 draw over River Plate.
Another type of run Copetti was seen making was off the River Plate RCB’s shoulder towards the center of the box. This run was looking for longballs over the top. One of which looked destined to send Copetti in on goal but the CB collided with him and no foul was given.
Racing often played out of the back on goal kicks before ultimately playing a long ball forward toward Copetti. Copetti does very well at fighting to win those long balls either with a header or by sealing his man and controlling the ball with his chest. Copetti also used his aerial dominance to help release his teammates by setting them up with flick-on headers leading to attacking opportunities.
Overall, Copetti looks for direct over the top passes as well as crosses that he can finish off for goals with quick efficient finishing typical of an out and out number nine.
Copetti is a very emotional and vocal player. Some supporters will see this as frustrating like they did with Świderski in year one, but it’s clear that Copetti cares about winning and pushing himself and his teammates forward. Copetti is a player that will get physical and chippy when needed. He will get under the skin of defenders with his constant pressure and physicality and wear down opponents both mentally and physically throughout a match.
How Charlotte FC Can Utilize Copetti
Copetti will be the frontman in Charlotte, giving him prime goal scoring opportunities. He will also likely be utilized to help set up his teammates for opportunities of their own.
The wingers on both sides should be given opportunities to combine quick passes with Copetti opening up additional space to shoot or to continue driving into more dangerous areas. This could be especially beneficial for Kerwin Vargas and Kamil Jóźwiak, who both showed tendencies to try and combine with teammates and drive into the box.
Copetti will also be making long runs to get behind defenders, which will likely be utilized as many of the recent additions are proficient at passing over the top (specifically Adilson Malanda, Ashley Westwood, and Nuno Santos).
This should be effective for two reasons. First, Copetti is very effective in the air so whenever he is in a 1 v 1 battle with an opponent for a long ball he has the hustle and positional technique to win it and make something dangerous happen. Second, this type of play will help keep opposing teams honest with their defending.
During Charlotte FC’s first season they were often very one dimensional with their possession with slow methodical build ups that were too predictable at times. By demonstrating that they can also attack teams more directly with long passes teams will have a harder time pinpointing how Charlotte FC plan on using their possessions.
This is not saying that Charlotte FC will possess the ball less but rather that they will be able to utilize their possessions in different ways making their possessions more unpredictable, making their attacks more dangerous.
While Copetti is only one player his skill set and playing style will open up many different ways of attacking. Below is a visual of all the different spaces that Copetti was seen receiving the ball and connecting with teammates from. Demonstrating that Copetti can help Charlotte become a more unpredictable attack.
The fullbacks will be able to enjoy having a target in the box they can whip crosses in from deep. The wingers will get opportunities to make quick combination passes and get released into inverted positions to take on their own shots. Malanda and newly acquired Westwood will have a target for their deep long ball passes. And playmaker Świderski will have the opportunity to combine with a teammate through the middle who has a similarly quick attacking processing speed to himself.