By Brian Maurer
Photos courtesy of Cisco's Art and CJ Hellner/TopBin90
Charlotte FC failed to significantly improve in 2023 from the 42 points they earned in their inaugural season. This led to the firing of former Head Coach Christian Lattanzio and the hiring of Dean Smith. While looking back over several different stats, results, and metrics, one statistic stands out as to why Charlotte struggled last year. Their largest investments did not have enough touches.
Karol Świderski and Enzo Copetti both had less than 40 touches on average per 90 minutes in 2023. This means that the two players Charlotte has spent the most money on earned less than 11% of the team's total touches per game.
In the games where Świderski or Copetti earn more touches, The Crown tended to perform substantially better. When the two DP strikers struggled to get touches Charlotte tended to perform poorly. In matches where either of them had at least 37 touches, Charlotte earned nearly a point more on average.
This analysis included all of Świderski and Copetti's 2023 MLS starts. The "Touches" variable refers to the amount of touches he had in a given start. The "Pts Avg" variable refers to the amount of points the team averaged in those starts.
When comparing their touch rate to other top attacking DPs in the Eastern Conference, Świderski and Copetti both rank near the bottom. Charlotte is also second to last in the Eastern Conference when you average Świderski and Copetti’s together and compare them to the average touches by attacking DPs on other teams in the East.
Świderski and Copetti ranked near the bottom in touches per 90 compared to the other DP attackers in the Eastern Conference
DP attackers' touch avg (per 90)
When averaging Eastern Conference clubs' DP attackers' touches per 90, Charlotte FC rank near the bottom
There is more than one reason that can explain the lack of touches Copetti and Świderski are getting. One is they both prefer a center-forward role. This type of positioning tends to reduce the amount of touches the player will get as the ball will be in their vicinity less often. This also can explain why the team performs better when they both have more touches. When the two strikers have more touches the ball is more likely to be in the attacking third more often, which increases the probability of success.
Even poor teams like Toronto FC were able to get their key attacking pieces (Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi) the ball more than Charlotte. The Columbus Crew also has a striker who plays in an advanced position (Cucho Hernández) and gets more touches than either Świderski or Copetti. Tactically, there should be a solution that gets at least one of Charlotte’s key attackers the ball more often. In 2023, that solution was not found.
This lack of touches is also likely the reason The Crown is looking to invest in an attacking midfielder and a winger. If they spend big at either or both of those positions then it increases the amount of high-caliber attackers that Charlotte has on the field getting touches. In this case, if Charlotte’s strikers are left higher up the field, they would still have an attacking piece dropping back and getting the necessary touches on the ball. Similar to what Thiago Almada (75.7 touches per 90) and Luciano Acosta (65.1) provide for their teams.
An in-house solution
Another solution to this problem might already exist on the roster. Kerwin Vargas. When Vargas gets 44 touches or more Charlotte earns more than an extra point on average.
This analysis included all of Vargas' 2023 MLS starts. The "Touches" variable refers to the amount of touches he had in a given start. The "Pts Avg" variable refers to the amount of points the team averaged in those starts.
The issue with the young Colombian is that he has lacked consistency with his form. If he can become a reliable week-in and week-out starter in Charlotte's attack, and Smith can find ways to get him the ball more regularly then Charlotte might have an additional solution to their current attacking concerns besides just new signings.