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Malanda's week one performance and what is needed from him against Vancouver

By Brian Maurer


Adilson Malanda was named to the MLS Team of the Matchday (Photo courtesy of CJ Hellner/TopBin90)


Adilson Malanda stood out with a Man of the Match performance against NYCFC in Charlotte FC’s home opener. He helped The Crown keep an opening night clean sheet and scored his first professional goal. 


Here are a few of the traits that stood out from his performance as well as a look ahead to the forward pairing he’ll be up against in Vancouver:


Decision making


Malanda’s decision-making appears to have become more mature since 2023. Against NYCFC, the Frenchman had several moments where he chose to hold his position rather than attack the ball. This allowed him to be in a position to mark other off-ball runs and stop the ball from continuing to advance (visual below). 


In 2023, Malanda was a very aggressive defender often pressuring the ball which was great when it worked but he would leave himself out of position regularly when it didn’t. On opening night he picked his spots well, holding his line and only attacking the ball as a last resort instead of his first instinct. With his strong positioning and ability to identify the off-ball runs, NYCFC had difficulty finding ways past him, which limited their attacking threat all night.


Here NYCFC’s attacker is receiving the pass and instead of attacking the ball Malanda backs off positioning himself to defend the space down the right flank (top left and right). Because of this positioning Malanda can cover the run on the wing and shepherd the ball out of play (bottom left and right).


The 22-year-old center-back’s decisions throughout the match led him to be in good positions regularly helping Charlotte limit NYCFC to only two shots on target and only one shot with an xG score of .10. The Pigeons had limited looks, and their limited looks were mostly low percentage chances.


Recoveries


Malanda was also quick to react and make strong recoveries to prevent dangerous moments from occurring. He used a combination of quick reaction time, athleticism, and tackling precision to snuff out multiple fires.


In this example, Júnior Urso loses the ball in the defensive third. Malanda positions himself to be able to cover the space near the byline quickly (left). He then confidently makes the sliding tackle against the driving forward to prevent the turnover from becoming a dangerous goalscoring opportunity (right).


Malanda’s ability to make strong recoveries was also highlighted in his stat sheet as he won three of his four tackle attempts against dribblers.


Passing


The French center-back also supported Charlotte’s attack. While it would be easy to highlight his tap-in goal, where he excelled was with his ability to set up quick attacking possessions with his passing. Multiple times Malanda hit either Nathan Byrne down the right, Jere Uronen with a diagonal pass down the left (visual example below), or Enzo Copetti over the top. His ability to spread the ball around to his teammates provided The Crown with a diverse range of quick, direct build-up play options.


In the second half, Charlotte attacked NYCFC down the left flank multiple times. One of the ways they did this was by having Malanda switch the play with a long diagonal ball to Uronen in space.


Malanda’s ability to spread the ball around was also highlighted by his long pass completion percentage (75%), as he set up multiple attacking opportunities for his teammates.


Vancouver’s attacking duo


After putting in a solid performance at home Charlotte fly to face off against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Malanda will be tasked with covering one of the more underrated attacking duos in MLS. Attackers Brian White and Ryan Gauld will be looking to put pressure on Malanda and his center-back partner Andrew Privett in their opener. For The Crown to keep this game within striking distance will depend heavily on how Malanda and Privett match up for 90 minutes.


White especially is willing to be a physical presence and also has an engine that can maintain a full shift. He’s a volume striker who oftentimes outshoots his goal-scoring production. Last year White and Gauld combined for 26 goals. That was nearly half of Vancouver’s goals all season.


Malanda’s decision-making and recoveries will be called upon in a big way against Vancouver’s attacking pair. A major part of that comes from Malanda’s ability to stay tight with Privett and mark attackers well (see image below). 


NYCFC put in new signing Jovan Mijatović late in the game to try and salvage a point with a two-striker look. Vancouver will put a two-striker look in from the start with Gauld and White. Malanda and Privett's marking of them will be key.


Malanda had an excellent showing in week one. It will be important for him to demonstrate that he can produce at a high level in multiple different environments. After traveling such a long distance, this match-up against the Whitecaps will highlight just how resilient Malanda has become on the defensive end.


The tall center-back will also be looking to continue to hit teammates with passes over the top. Something that could benefit Charlotte as Vancouver sometimes pushes up high leaving space in behind for a long insightful pass. Malanda’s task to stifle Vancouver will be pivotal in helping the team earn road trip points.


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