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Liel Abada: Charlotte FC's new Young DP

By Sam Vanolinda


Liel Abada (Photo courtesy of Jeff Holmes)


Charlotte FC has reportedly found a new young winger to bolster the attack.


22-year-old Israeli Liel Abada has decided to join Charlotte FC from Scottish club Celtic. He slots in as a Young Designated Player and boasts impressive numbers for one of the most famous clubs in Europe.


Last season, he had 10 goals and five assists in 1,257 minutes of play in a championship-winning season for the Glasgow-based team. The year before he had 10 goals and six assists, consistent stats for such a young talent.


Playing for a dominant team like Celtic, he has seen a lot of winning in his young career; he is a two-time Scottish Champion, one-time Scottish Cup winner, and two-time Scottish League Cup Winner.


Let's take a deeper look into the career and playstyle of the Crown’s newest attacker.


Career


Abada started his career in Israel, debuting for Maccabi Petah Tikva in 2019. He stayed in Israel until 2021 when he moved to Celtic for four million Euros.


He has also had an extensive international career for Israel, beginning with the under-16 team, where he made six appearances.


Abada also had a combined 45 appearances for the U17, U18, U19, and U21 teams, before debuting for the senior team on June 5, 2021.


The winger bagged his first senior goal for Israel against Iceland in a 2022 Nations League match, his only goal in 10 appearances so far for his country.


When Abada joined Celtic, his stock began to rise after immediately impacting the team; he scored in his debut, in a Champions League qualifying match against Midtjylland. Alongside players like Odsonne Edouard, and Portuguese starlet, Jota,  he won the league in his debut season.


Abada even won the PFA Scotland Young Player of the Year award in 2021. It’s easy to say that the fans were extremely excited for the future with him.


As mentioned earlier, he then followed his 2021 season with an almost identical 2022-23 season, solidifying himself as a cornerstone player.


In 2023, the Israel-Hamas war, as well as an unfortunately timed injury, pushed Abada away from Celtic. Five weeks after Abada signed a new five-year deal, the war started in his homeland, creating a tough situation, as a lot of the Celtic fan base was and is supportive of Palestine in the conflict.


One of the Celtic ultras groups, the Green Brigade, held a banner calling for “victory to the resistance” in Palestine.


This then caused coaches and teammates within the Israel national team to call for Abada to leave Celtic, with manager Alon Hazan labeling the club as “Anti-Semetic.”


On top of that, Abada’s injury prevented him from seeing the field and focusing on his football. It created an environment where Abada felt alienated, which was explained further in this Daily Mail article.


Abada did eventually return to the team, where most fans in the stadium gave him a loud cheer and were supportive of him, but it seems eventually he decided with his manager Brendan Rodgers, that leaving the club would be the best option.


Rodgers said in an interview recently, “He’s training, he’s working away, but as I said to you, this period is all about the mind, and if you’re not quite right or ready, then first I can’t take any risk with him, the player because that’s who we’ll always support, and obviously I have to protect the squad as well.”



After looking around online and seeing what Celtic fans have to say about the player, it seems like he never had any previous locker room issues, but it was hard for Abada to focus on the game when large groups of home fans had such strong opinions, so it makes sense as to why he decided to look for a change of scenery.


Play Style


Match tapes online and reports from some helpful Celtic fans (who also have an interest in Charlotte FC), can provide us with an idea of what to expect from Abada in Charlotte. Here is a breakdown of what he could bring:


He is somewhat of an inverted right-winger, who is more direct than your typical pacey, skillful wide player. He has an excellent right foot and can also cut in from the left side and score impressive goals if needed.


He has very instinctive attacking positioning, and gets in the right place at the right time, scoring more goals than average from his position. A lot of his goals for Celtic are a result of his high work-rate and smart positioning, getting on the end of crosses from his attacking players on the other side.



He has the clinical nature of a seasoned striker. He always seems assured when within close range, with many different shot types in his arsenal, from chips to curled efforts.


Being in the right place at the right time will be important for a Charlotte team that leaves a lot to be desired from a finishing standpoint. Copetti showed that he has a knack for helping his teammates out with his slick dummy that set up Tavares against the Whitecaps; Abada could pair very well with Copetti.


Abada is not going to wow you with his dribbling, but he is very secure on the ball and will find the right pass more often than not. He is very deliberate with his actions and doesn’t waste a ton of movement or energy when on the ball. 


That being said, he still has a solid amount of acceleration and can dribble past a defender, it's just not his best attribute.


Abada’s direct play could pair well with Copetti and Vargas on the other side. Abada is the more direct winger cutting inside and making smart runs toward the goal, and Vargas supplying crosses from the other side.


All in all, Abada is a very mature player for his young age. His direct nature will help this team score goals and will fit well with the needs of Dean Smith. Having Abada on counterattacks and in attacking positions will only create more chances for this team.


Final thoughts


Despite impressive play from Tavares early in the season, Abada could instantly make an impact and start when he arrives in Charlotte.


Attacking depth has been an issue through two games, and Abada is a young and talented player who should be a very positive acquisition for the team.


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