By Tyler Trent
Image courtesy of Charlotte FC
Karol Świderski is a divisive designated player choice so far this season. After a hot start scoring four goals, he has gone scoreless in his last eleven games. Although the talent is clear on the pitch, his poor run of form and finishing has left some supporters questioning his place in the team. Meanwhile, an in-form Andre Shinyashiki has made the most of his minutes and scored 6 goals in 11 matches so far this season.
The questions have started to build up. Should Karol Świderski be starting every match? Is he good enough to play for Charlotte FC? I took a look at Karol Świderski’s past and his time with Charlotte FC to come to my own conclusion: Karol is exactly the kind of player you want on your team.
Karol Świderski was born in Rawicz, Poland in 1997. He grew up in the youth system of local club, Rawia Rawicz, eventually moving on to UKS SMS Łódź, a club known for its work with young players. Swiderski eventually moved on to Ekstraklasa’s (the Polish top division) Jagiellonia Białystok in 2014 before ultimately breaking into the first team exclusively going into the 2016-2017 season. In this period, Świderski was also getting callups and minutes with the Polish National Team at youth levels.
Image courtesy of PAOK
In 2019, Greek club PAOK decided to take a chance on the young forward after a successful start to his campaign in Poland scoring 8 goals in 17 games. Świderski’s time in Greece began mostly making substitute appearances from the bench, but in the 2019-2020 season, he tallied 10 goals and 1 assist in the league. Świderski continued the production the following season by scoring 9 goals and providing 7 assists.
The success at PAOK earned Świderski a look from the senior Polish national team in March 2021. Swiderski made an impression with the national team by scoring 7 goals in 16 matches, pairing up front with Robert Lewandowski. Karol Świderski was announced as Charlotte FC’s first senior designated player in January 2022. Karol would join Jan Sobocinski as the second Polish player for Charlotte. This would prove to be a reunion for Świderski and Sobocinski as they were schoolmates in their youth.
Queen City Karol
Karol Świderski burst onto the scene in Charlotte by scoring 4 goals in the first 5 MLS matches, before going on a long scoring drought of 11 matches. This led many fans to doubt that Świderski is the player that Charlotte needs up front. Is this a fair assessment? I personally don’t think it is. There are multiple methods to come up with a fair assessment on a player. I believe the best method is through a combination of newer advanced statistic methods such as xG and player film reviews.
To begin the assessment of Świderski, I took a brief look at his stats compared to other forwards in the league. Valentín Castellanos, Jesús Ferreira, and Sebastián Driussi have all received high praise and currently lead the golden boot race.
Statistically, Świderski doesn’t begin to compare to the current golden boot leaders. Surprisingly, even Świderski’s defensive stats such as pressure, tackles, and interceptions are lower than the three previously mentioned players. One area where Świderski excels is higher-level quality in his movement with and without the ball. With the ball at his feet, he processes the game more clearly than most of his teammates and opposition. He leads the team in fouls won with that skill, and holds 11 more than the next closest teammate. Świderski also draws more fouls than the three golden boot race leaders. Świderski’s style of play, dropping deeper and helping buildup the attack, combined with his adeptness with the ball have resulted in him drawing 33 fouls so far this season. As expected, the majority of players who lead this stat play as attacking midfielders for their club.
Świderski has played more of a false 9 role for Charlotte this season. Early in the season, nearly all his shots were taken from outside the box. This is due to him dropping deeper to get on the ball and limited service into the box. Two of his four goals this season have been from outside the box, with the other two coming off well laid off assists in the 18-yard box. However, in recent matches against Austin and Houston, we saw an uptick in service into the box with a couple quality chances being created for Świderski. This included one chance that hit the post and another that was saved and eventually put over the goal, continuing his goal drought.
Image courtesy of Charlotte FC
However, statistics alone don’t build a complete picture of the intangible aspects of Świderski’s game. If you watch a match focusing on Świderski, you will notice a few things quickly. He shows a lot of emotion on the pitch. Some write this off as a negative, immediately calling him “whiny.” I see this as a positive. He cares about winning and doesn’t want to be a passenger. He wants the ball, wants to score, wants to win, and he’s perfectly clear on the pitch about what his intentions are.
At PAOK and with the Polish National Team, he benefitted from playing in a two-striker system, but that’s not to say he can’t play as the lone man up front. The addition of Shinyashiki to the squad has given Karol a player who can be that second forward, even when playing a 4-3-3. In the Austin FC match, Świderski started up top with Shinyashiki on the left wing. We haven’t had the opportunity to see much play with a full-strength lineup that includes both Shinyashiki and Świderski on the field, but the Austin game was promising. Until recently, Świderski wasn’t getting many quality chances per game as the lone forward in the system, or in his few appearances playing with Daniel Ríos as a front two.
However, with the introduction of Christian Lattanzio as the new manager, there has been a positive upward trend in not only defensive performance, but also offensive creation. Thus far, the goals have not started to add up, but Świderski and the rest of the squad have been getting more quality looks at goal, and it’s only a matter of time before those start finding the back of the net.
The Redemption Game
Following the writing of this article, Karol Świderski once again announced himself to MLS with his performance against Nashville SC. A towering header increased Charlotte’s advantage to 2-0, and ultimately proved the winning goal in a 4-1 match. The relief of scoring the goal was obvious for Świderski. In one of the most iconic goal celebrations this season, Świderski sprinted to the throne to celebrate with the supporters and his teammates.
As previously mentioned, goals aren’t all there is to Świderski’s game. In his usual fashion, he was all over the pitch - dropping deep to get the ball, making runs into the box, covering for Kamil Jóźwiak and Yordy Reyna on the wings, and keeping possession in the midfield. Świderski was everywhere over the field, working to keep pressure on Nashville while helping his team to retain the ball and move forward.
Image courtesy of MLSSoccer.com
In the post-game press conference, Świderski spoke about his struggles this season. He mentioned in the past two years he had little to no days off. This was due to his commitments with PAOK, Poland, and then switching over to the MLS schedule with Charlotte. As the season comes to a close, his time off will remain minimal for the foreseeable future. The World Cup starts in November and concludes December 18th, and the MLS preseason starts in February.
Świderski went on to acknowledge he needs to score more, specifically mentioning his designated player status, and the expectations that comes with that to score goals. Świderski reaffirmed his commitment to the team and his happiness playing in Charlotte.
The Road Ahead
With more time to settle into his new home in Charlotte and MLS, and eventually a time for rest and recovery, the future for Świderski looks bright. Rumors of a new attacking midfielder being brought into the squad would also allow Świderski to operate more as a forward without having to drop as deep to create chances. With the monkey off his back, there are signs that the floodgates may open for him soon. All signs point to a continuation of impressive offensive performance for Charlotte FC, with Karol Świderski being a key part of the attack.