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  • Socks at Half-Mast

A Hornet's Nest of Rebellion

Well that was fun. My voice hasn't quite recovered from Saturday and a few articles of clothing need a wash as they smell of beer showers, but I couldn't be happier.


After a lot of unnecessary talk of attendance numbers (but maybe some fair talk of ticket prices...), Charlotte secured their first 3 points of the year (and in the club's history) in front of almost 30,000 fans. New England, coming in off the back of 2 blown games, did not take it well.

Let's all hope the Rev's admin is feeling a little better. Too much salt is never good for the body.


Perhaps more importantly than their back-to-back losses, the Revs came in without their starting CBs. With both Henry Kessler and Andrew Farrell sidelined due to injury, Jonathan Bell and Omar González started. Predictably, they were not good. Jozy Altidore came in up top, but aside from that, they played most of their preferred players and started a pretty strong lineup. Yes, this was their 3rd game in a week, but they have a deep squad and it's still early in the year. I won't accept that this result is simply due to fatigue. Charlotte was just better team this night.

 
Stats, CLTFC vs NE, 3/19
Stats via MLS, CLTFC vs NE, 3/19

The way this team has rebounded from the first couple of games, when they couldn't create any opportunities, to now is fantastic. Sure, the Revs out shot Charlotte a little, but the quality (5 on target for each side) was equal. Moreover, Charlotte continued their (overall) strong defensive efforts. It's not perfect, and teams are definitely getting some good looks, but the defense is proving decently stout. The goalkeeper is also proving exceedingly good.

 
Shot Map via MLS, CLTFC vs. NE, 3/19
Shot Map via MLS, CLTFC vs. NE, 3/19

I really love the types of shots that this team is taking and the areas where they are creating chances. Świderski's first goal is the furtherest attempt out. Most everything else is in the box. This is a continuation of what this team started to do against Atlanta. Also, notice how centrally these shots are. Compare Charlotte's shots to New England's. The Revs are getting into a some good positions, but a lot of what they are attempting is from outside the box or at tighter angles from inside.

 
Possession intervals via MLS, CLTFC vs. NE, 3/19
Possession intervals via MLS, CLTFC vs. NE, 3/19

A couple good trends, I think, in this possession chart. First, is how quickly Charlotte started. Unlike in Atlanta where it took almost 40 minutes for Charlotte to find a footing, they came out attacking NE. Further, after each spell of possession (except maybe the last 15 minutes of the 1st), Charlotte is bouncing back from NE's attack and possessions. After the NE equalizer, there is no lull--they immediately go and get the lead back. Then, as NE again presses for an equalizer, Charlotte takes the game over for a spell and gets their third.


The end of the match is pretty heavily New England, but that's to be expected with a team holding a 2 goal lead. Critically, Charlotte was able to show the Revs how to win a home game when you have a multi-goal lead.

 

The formation and passing efficiency was so much better Saturday than it was against Atlanta. MLS has us playing a 4-4-2, and perhaps that is what we put on paper, but in possession we're more of a 2-6-2. Miguel Ángel Ramírez also indicated there was work midweek with a diamond in the midfield, so the midfield arrangement was definitely fluid.


The MOST important difference between these games, though, was Charlotte's ability to link to the forwards. As a reminder, against Atlanta, Świderski and Gaines are incredibly isolated and Bender is the only real link.

Passing network via MLS, CLTFC vs NE, 3/19
Passing network via MLS, CLTFC vs NE, 3/19

Look at the difference verses NE, though. All of a sudden you have connections with the strikers via multiple paths. Bender is connecting with both strikers, plus AlcÍvar; Alcívar is linking with the strikers, Franco, and Fuchs (!). I also love how Bronico is acting as an outlet for the CBs, a recycler of the ball, and an inside option for the fullbacks.

Passing network via MLS, CLTFC vs ATL, 3/13
Passing network via MLS, CLTFC vs ATL, 3/13

There has been a lot of talk about having Bender play on the wing regularly. While I still prefer him in a more central position--and optimally in one where he can start centrally and float into space on the wings--if he is a nominal winger that is afforded the ability to drift inside, I'm fine with that. That is what is happening in this game as Fuchs is the one providing most of the width.

 
Expected goals chart via MLS, CLTFC vs NE, 3/19
Expected goals chart via MLS, CLTFC vs NE, 3/19

I did find this xG interesting. At only 1.3, I was a bit surprised. Świderski's first goal is definitely a lower percentage one, but his 2nd and Bender's goal are really good opportunities from really good positions on the field. There is some luck with the bouncing of the ball in the lead up to Świderski's 2nd, so maybe that is part of it? Regardless, we created good chances, finished those chances, and got the first 3 points of the year. I'm in too good of a mood to question it too much!

 

There is no doubt about it: this team is starting to gel and we're starting to see a coherent plan for how they want to play. Bender is showing why he was the #1 pick; Świderski is showing why he is a DP; Kahlina is looking like one of the best keepers in the league. They're by no means a finished product, but depth in midfield is starting to look promising. Alcívar had a really good debut, I believe their is more to be had from Ruiz, Franco has been underrated so far, and Derrick Jones looked like a solid defensive piece in his debut for the club. There will undoubtedly be bumps in the road, but with the way this team has played over the past two weeks, you can't help but be excited.

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