By Brian Maurer
One of the many discussions over the last month among Charlotte FC fans and local Charlotte media pundits has been regarding Charlotte FC forward Andre Shinyashiki. Since joining the team in early May, Shinyashiki made himself an instant fan favorite by coming off the bench in his Charlotte debut and scoring the winner in a 1-0 win against Inter Miami. Shinyashiki went on to have several more important moments where he would score to help Charlotte salvage points.
Recently, Shinyashiki’s minutes have been declining, which has outraged many in the Charlotte FC fanbase. Charlotte’s front office (FO), and head coach, Christian Lattanzio, are responsible for both the present state of the club and the future potential of the club. Looking at the current state of Charlotte’s roster and what the future holds for many of its players can help us better understand what is going on in regards to why Shinyashiki’s minutes have been on the decline.
The Present State Of Charlotte’s Attack
At times, and especially against strong opposition, Charlotte’s attack has looked toothless. However, many of Charlotte’s forwards are starting to improve on their form and in their final end product. Striker Karol Swiderski, who was on an 11-game scoring drought, has started to get hot. Swiderski has six goal contributions (4g/2a) in his past eight games.
Winger Yordy Reyna, has three goals and an assist since he has become a regular starter on the left wing (eight games started since July). McKinze Gaines has also begun to show improvement with some final third production, nabbing assists in two of his past three starts.
With these players starting to round into decent form, minutes have gotten harder to come by for Shinyashiki since he first joined the club. When Shinyashiki first joined the team, Charlotte had very few scoring options, and none that were in form. Which opened the door significantly for Shinyashiki. Other attackers beginning to hit solid spurts of form has made competition more intense which means minutes harder to earn for everyone, not just Shinyashiki.
While the end product is crucial for the results, there is a benefit in keeping an eye on some of the more advanced predictive value statistics to see who has been dangerous in the final third even when the final moment of a goal does not come. Here is a ranked list of Charlotte’s regularly playing attackers and their expected goal contributions (xGC) per 90 minutes*.
Shinyashiki currently leads the team in xGC/90. However, the difference between a .4 and a .45 xGC is very small, as that means Shinyashiki is contributing one more goal than Swiderski every twenty games. This puts Shinyashiki, Gaines, Reyna, and Swiderski all around the same in terms of the expected goals contributed. Why then does Shinyashiki appear to be getting the biggest reduction in minutes?
One other statistic that sticks out of the predictive values is expected assists (xA). Shinyashiki has the lowest xA/90 out of any of the Charlotte attackers. This could mean that either, Shinyashiki is not very good at distributing the ball to his teammates to set them up for shots, or that his teammates are poor at receiving his passes and thus not able to take the shot after he has passed it to them.
I would suggest that the former is the more likely for two reasons. First, Shinyashiki has the highest xG/90 out of the attackers, which means when he is getting the ball in dangerous situations he is electing to shoot rather than pass. Second, the other attackers all have higher xA/90, which suggests that teammates on Charlotte FC are able to receive passes and take shots after doing so.
These predictive values provide us some information into the specifics of Charlotte’s attacking core. For Shinyashiki, specifically, these values show a player that prefers to drive towards goal for shots rather than to distribute the ball to teammates who are in dangerous areas.
Another way to look at the current state of Charlotte’s attack is the way they lineup and how many attacking positions are available. With the 4-3-3 set up Charlotte has three starting positions in the attack and five attackers who are getting regular playing time. Although, Kerwin Vargas did just get his first start for the club against NYCFC, so he may be added to this list by season’s end.
The striker position can be ruled out as an option for Shinyashiki to be a starter simply because Swiderski is the player who the team has invested in the most. The entire club is essentially betting on him being able to be at the core of Charlotte’s attack for at least the next couple of years. It would take a calamity far worse than his 11-game scoring drought for Swiderski to lose his role. This leaves the two wing positions for Shinyashiki to earn his starting minutes.
Based on Shinyashiki’s predictive stats the left wing would be by far his most preferred position, since he is a right footed shooter and setting up on the left is easier for him to get his shot off. Putting him on the right wing would simply make his life as a shooter more difficult, and that cost would not come with a reward of more distribution. The reason for having Shinyashiki on the field is for him to be able to drive towards the box to take shots, which is easier for him to do from the left.
Having narrowed down Shinyashiki’s possible starting positions in Charlotte to the left wing we can now look at the most regular starter at that position of late, Reyna. Reyna has been able to provide attacking creativity in multiple ways. His xGC/90 stats illustrate a more balanced approach to his game, as he is both taking and distributing shots. This could mean that the reason Shinyashiki has been getting a reduction in minutes is because Lattanzio has had a preference for wingers whose style of play involves more shot distribution.
Shinyashiki’s Future At The Club
The other question that has come up regarding Shinyashiki is his contract situation. Shinyashiki mentioned the monetary distance between him and the club recently on the podcast Sam’s Army “I have not received an offer that is acceptable…I think there is a big disconnect between what they are offering me and what I feel and what the league has said the players that are getting the types of goals and numbers that I have are receiving”.
These comments have led to many complaints from the fanbase regarding the club being too tight with their money, because they will not pay a player who is currently the team’s second leading goalscorer.
While it is fair for fans to question the club’s reluctance to pay a player who has been a fan favorite, and has contributed goals, it being due to a lack of willingness to spend is a tad farfetched.
Charlotte FC currently have half of their total wages of the team tied up in attacking players (roughly 48%**). Not only are their wages tied up in the attack, but most of the roster incentives that the MLS provides are also tied up in the attacking portion of the roster (two DPs and two U-22 Initiatives). With this much money, and this many players who are signed using MLS incentives on the roster that play Shinyashiki’s position, it becomes way harder to justify paying Shinyashiki significantly more.
This is not to say that Shinyashiki does not deserve a significant pay raise or that he does not deserve starting minutes. It is, for better or for worse, not likely to happen in Charlotte. This is because the club has spent a massive amount of investment in the attack on other players.
Swiderski is a DP and has a two million plus salary. Jozwiak is also a DP and has a salary over a million. Reyna is a TAM player, and Vargas and Vinicius Mello are U-22 Initiative signings. These players are all going to be at the core of next season's attack. Paying extra to keep a player who wants to start, but who likely will not, does not seem like an ideal long term fit for either party.
It should also be said that this core group of players were signed around the same time or before Shinyashiki, so this is Charlotte FC sticking to the plan that they have already laid out for themselves. What happened along the way was Shinyashiki started scoring at a time when very few other attackers on the roster were. Which has led to much of the controversy surrounding this situation.
The hope is, and should always be, that both parties, player and club, find a solution that ends up being mutually beneficial. If Shinyashiki is looking for both a starting striker salary and role, ideally he finds it. If Charlotte FC is not capable of providing what Shinyashiki is likely looking for, then trying to sign him or cut corners on a deal to keep him would not be a realistic solution either. Sometimes good players, who fans like, do not fit into what a club is trying to accomplish long term. This appears to be the Shinyashiki situation.
* Statistics were found on fbref.com; these statistics do not include Charlotte’s most recent game against NYCFC, but most of these stats would not likely have changed significantly.
**Salary information was found at MLSPA.com and capology.com; it is also worth noting that Vargas and Malanda’s salary information has not been included in my calculations. Although neither of these players would change the percentages of total salary too much, and if anything they might actually increase the percentage of salary that has been put towards attackers.