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Finishing or creating: What is Charlotte FC's biggest attacking concern?

By Brian Maurer


Photos courtesy of Cisco's Art/TopBin90


The debate over what is ailing Charlotte FC started to heat up several weeks ago when Jorge Gonzales of TopBin90 and Lee Hannibal of CLTFCFanTV discussed their differing points of view on the issue. Gonzales considered finishing, especially Enzo Copetti’s lack of goals, a primary concern. On the other hand, Hannibal felt that more opportunities were necessary to provide the quantity of shots needed to get more consistent goal-scoring numbers.


Through seven games, we are starting to get clearer data on where Charlotte’s attack stands and the cause of their woes, especially after their most recent 1-0 loss against the New England Revolution. Here is a breakdown of The Crown’s limited amount of finishing and creating to see where the greatest concern truly lies.


Creating


Charlotte currently ranks 25th in MLS in total shots (67). They are also T-25th in assists (3) and 26th in key passes (47). Charlotte is moving the ball forward into the attacking third (they rank 11th in passes completed into the final third; 34.1 per 90), but they are not getting the ball into the box (they rank 24th in passes completed into the penalty area; 6.43 per 90).


Most of their attack has been one-dimensional, with an overdependence on crossing in from the wings. The Crown ranks fifth in completed crosses into the penalty area per 90 (2.43). They rank far lower in other types of passes into the penalty area showing that they have been limited to crossing into the box during attacking sequences.


The lack of diversity in the attack has likely played a key role in the lack of quantity in overall shooting opportunities. With more volume, the likelihood of more goals would go up, even if key attackers continue to struggle to finish their chances. More shots mean that someone is likely to hit the target and finish occasionally.


Finishing


While Charlotte is lacking creativity, it is also clear the team needs to take the opportunities available. The Crown currently has a total of 10 xG through seven games, but they have only scored six goals. This means they have at least four goals left on the table, according to FBRef xG data. Based on this G-xG metric, Charlotte is the third-worst-finishing team in MLS, ahead of only DC United and Orlando City.


Charlotte is currently averaging a goal for every five shots on target. They are only averaging 3.57 shots on target per 90 minutes, which makes their finishing rate a serious concern as this sets them below a goal a game if these sorts of rates continue. Most of the stronger attacking teams in MLS are getting more shots total, and more shots on target. It isn’t rocket science, if Charlotte hits the frame more often, they will more likely get the goals they need to secure more of the points they are missing; especially the ones on the road.


Conclusion


While it is easy from the most recent performance against New England to point out the lack of finishing, which continues to be a problem, the other stark statistic to point out is the lack of total shots in that game. Charlotte managed a meager six shots in that game and they had only one key pass from a starting attacking player. The lack of creativity is also blatantly clear to see. The good teams in MLS get far more shots per game. Charlotte currently averages less than 10.


While this may seem like a lukewarm answer to the question, it seems like both creativity and finishing need a major enhancement for Charlotte’s attack to gain any meaningful traction. One without the other will likely not suffice.


If Charlotte’s finishing alone improved but they maintained the same low shot count they likely wouldn’t maintain enough volume to improve their goal tally enough to make a substantial difference in their overall ranking over the long run. Short-term the finishing would improve, but improving finishing alone likely wouldn’t account for enough of a change throughout the season.


If creativity is the only thing Charlotte improved, they would have more chances and while they would likely put away more goals even with poorer finishing this also would not likely lead to enough better outcomes because they would still be lacking a substantial increase in goals to push themselves up the rankings.


Based on what other successful MLS attacks are producing, Charlotte must create at least four or five more chances per game (increasing their quantity to about 13-14 shots per game). With those additional shots, The Crown will also need to hit the target at least two or more additional times (increasing their count to five or six per game). 


If they can do these two things they are likely going to get the volume of chances and shots on target needed to put more than a goal per game away. If they do that with their far more compact defensive line they should see consistent improvement in their results.

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