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  • Socks at Half-Mast

The Chicago Preview, Part II

The win against NYCFC was impressive. Yes, New York is kind of in a tailspin. Yes, we only scored 1 goal. Yes, we had a red card. It's that last piece, though, which makes this win so good. Playing most of the 2nd half, Charlotte showed some real grit to see out that game.


Malanda again looked solid and plays in a way that belies his age and experience. Byrne has me legitimately excited because, while he's yet to be able to showcase his offensive prowess, defensively he was incredibly strong last game. Jóźwiak still hasn't scored, but he did hit the post and has looked like a different player on the left. Świderski started as a 10 and looked good at it!...for the first 20 ish minutes of the game. I still think it's a worthwhile experiment for him to play there, but I am not convinced he can long-term. All-in-all, this was a good performance by a team that could have just given up. The playoffs remain a prayer, but if you keep winning, who knows what can happen?

 

Team

Possession

Shots per game

Shots on target per game

Goals for (xG)

Goals against (xGA)

Points (standing)

WhoScored team rating (SofaScore team rating)

Charlotte FC

52.9%

11.23

4.00

35 (33.2)

46 (40.1)

35 (11th in East)

6.50 (6.78)

Chicago Fire

49.1%

12.83

3.90

33 (38.0)

39 (39.8)

35 (12th in East)

6.60 (6.83)

Chicago at NE, 8/31, via MLS
Chicago at NE, 8/31, via MLS

Yeah, so these are basically the same team. Chicago has actually been a little unlucky when it comes to their goal total, as their xG is decently different from their actual Goals For. With that said, there's a reason these two teams are near the bottom of the East--they're both flawed teams.


Charlotte continues to languish at the bottom of the league for both goals for (5th worst in the league) and xG (2nd worst in the league). Chicago isn't much better at last in the league for Goals For and 9th worst in the league for xG. Neither of these teams scores easily and the chances of this game being a shootout is low.




 
Chicago at Columbus, 9/3, via MLS
Chicago at Columbus, 9/3, via MLS

Injury/Suspension

The MLS Availability Report has a lot of injuries listed for Chicago. Midfielder Brian Gutiérrez is listed as questionable with a right thigh injury. Six players are listed as out including forwards Kacper Przybyłko (back), Fabian Herbers (right hip), and Stanislav Ivanov (right quad); midfielders Jairo Torres (left lower leg) and Gastón Giménez (right thigh); and defender Wyatt Omsberg (left foot).


It should also be noted that while he did start and play the last match for Chicago, it was the first start for Shaqiri in a few matches. He's dealing with a leg issue. Doesn't seem like it is going to impact him for our matchup, but worth mentioning nonetheless.


Jhon Durán

Without Przybyłko, Durán led the line against Miami. Durán is actually in a tie for the team lead in goals for Chicago with 5. Shaqiri and Przybyłko join him with 5 goals on the season. Durán has also chipped in 3 assists on the season.

Chicago vs. MIami, 9/10, via MLS
Chicago vs. MIami, 9/10, via MLS

Durán is only 18. He joined Chicago from Colombian club Envigado, where he had 7 goals and 3 assists as a 17-year-old. He's gotten into 23 games for Chicago, starting 10. It should be noted that he only has 11.4 90s on the year. He's only done a full 90 twice this year (and one game of 89 minutes). If he starts, though, he's usually coming off around the 60 - 70th minute. If he comes off the bench, it's usually on for 15 to 20 minutes.


His goal return has been sporadic throughout the year. He scored his first goal of the season on May 15th but didn't score again until July 13th when he had 2. It took him until last weekend against Miami to score again. He had 2 on Saturday. Similarly, his assists have been pretty spread out as well. He got his first on May 18th but then didn't get another until July 3rd. He then got his last assist of the season (so far) in the next game, July 9th. Therefore, of his 5 goals and 3 assists, 40% of the goals and 67% of the assists came in a 3-game period between July 3rd and July 13th.

Durán heatmap, 2022, via SofaScore
Durán heatmap, 2022, via SofaScore

When Durán does score or assist, it's with the head (2 goals and 1 assist) or left foot (3 goals and 2 assists). FBref has him as being in the 92nd percentile for passes attempted with the left foot and head, but the first (!!!) percentile for passes attempted with the right foot. He appears to be a severely one-footed player, so if any of our defenders or midfielders let him get to the left foot, they should be immediately benched.


His heatmap shows a player who will drift around the pitch, but when it comes to the final 3rd will crash into the central portions of the box.


Durán will get a lot of shots off (93rd percentile) and most will be on target (88th percentile). With that said, he's only in the 29th percentile for goals/shot and the 66th percentile for xG. As such, he's dangerous when it comes to getting a shot off, but he's not necessarily dangerous with the actual shots. Part of this may be due to his shot distance, which is in the 29th percentile (15.80 yards per shot). At 6'1", he's pretty good in the air (88th percentile for aerials won and 86th percentile for percentage of aerials won).


When it comes to on-the-ball danger, Durán shouldn't scare us much. He's an average carrier of the ball (50th percentile for carries, 70th percentile for progressive carrying distance) and a poor dribbler (10th percentile for dribbles completed, 44th percentile for dribbles attempted, 15th percentile for players dribbled past). Finally, he's loose with the ball, as he's in the 6th percentile for miscontrols and 39th percentile for being dispossessed of the ball. This last point is a bit inconsistent with the fact he's in the 81st percentile for passing under pressure, however, I would still try to harry him whenever he's on the ball.


Chris Mueller

Mueller heatmap, 2022, via SofaScore
Mueller heatmap, 2022, via SofaScore

I talked about Mueller a bit in the first preview, but he continues to perform well for Chicago. He's made 21 appearances (20 starts) and has 4 goals and 4 assists on the season. Primarily being deployed on the left, Mueller is a good carrier of the ball (78th percentile for carries, 85th percentile for progressive carries), but is just average when it comes to dribbling (55th percentile for dribbles completed, 55th percentile for players dribble past). Defensively, he's not doing much. He doesn't tackle well or pressure very much.


He's a good passer in short distances (86th percentile for short passes completed, 88th percentile for short passes attempted), however, at medium and long distances (55th percentile for medium passes completed, 34th percentile for long passes completed) he struggles. It's a similar story when it comes to key passes (56th percentile), passes into the penalty area (61st percentile), and progressive passes (51st percentile), as he's just average, at best.


Mueller is a useful player, but, honestly, he's not a player who should put fear into an opponent. Playing alongside someone like Shaqiri really helps him. On a good team, he's probably nothing more than a 4th or 5th offensive option.


Carlos Terán

Terán heatmap, 2022, via SofaScore
Terán heatmap, 2022, via SofaScore

The defender is another import from Envigado for Chicago, although he came over in 2020. In his 3rd season with Chicago, Terán is starting to play real minutes. He has 19 appearances and 16 starts on the year. He's started the past 5 games for Chicago. At only 21, he's young for a CB, but shows some good traits.


First and foremost, his long passing jumps out to me. He's in the 76th percentile for long passes completed and the 90th percentile for long passes attempted. The percentage isn't great (60.8%), but it's clearly a part of his game that both he and the club believes in. The short and medium passing is surprisingly poor (15th percentile for short passes completed, 17th percentile for medium passes completed), but he's also not doing it very much (18th percentile for both short and medium passes attempted). Rafael Czichos, the other main CB, is similarly limited in the short range (18th percentile for short passes completed), is a bit better in the medium (47th percentile), and just as deadly in the long distance (88th percentile for long passes completed).

F. Navarro heatmap, 2022, via SofaScore
F. Navarro heatmap, 2022, via SofaScore

One might think that fullbacks would provide the short passing, but that's not necessarily the case. Boris Sekulić, the right back, is good in the short range (79th percentile for short passes completed, 83rd percentile for short passes attempted), but Miguel Navarro, the left back, isn't much better than the CBs (54th percentile for short passes completed). It's an interesting tactic, as it appears any buildup from the back is going to go through Sekulić, unless it's long, in which case the CBs will take over. Gaga Slonina is launching 48.1% of his non-goal kick passes and 63.9% of his goal kicks, so building from the back with their defenders doesn't appear to be Plan A for Chicago. Federico Navarro, a midfielder, is the one who is probably providing distribution from deep as his heatmap shows a player willing to drop deep and help with the buildup. I wouldn't necessarily describe F. Navarro as a good passer, but he's at least active.


Anyway, back to Terán, who in addition to his long passes, also possess some good defensive numbers. He's averaging 2.01 tackles per game, which is good for the 83rd percentile. He's in the 72nd percentile for dribblers tackled and 88th percentile for dribblers contested. He pressures actively in the defensive 3rd (85th percentile) but overall is just average (ish) with his pressuring ability (62nd percentile for successful pressure percentage).


Terán is 6'1" but isn't as good in the air as you might expect, or want, from a CB. He's only in the 54th percentile for aerials won and 59% for percentage of aerials won. These numbers aren't the end of the world and he still has plenty of time to improve in this area. Overall, Terán looks like a legitimately exciting defensive prospect.


Conclusion

Can we beat Chicago? Absolutely. Will we beat Chicago? Probably not. Chicago is much worse on the road, having only taken 13 points (3-8-4) than they are at home (22 points, 6-5-4 record). More importantly, though, we know what Charlotte is, especially on the road. With only 8 total points on the year, it's hard to predict a win at this point.


In his presser, Christian Lattanzio was asked about his choice to play Świderski at the 10. One reason he gave was so that Daniel Ríos could get into the squad. Now, Ríos did have the game-winning goal against NYCFC, but I'm a process over results guy. With the right process, results will come. With the wrong process, results might come, but more often they won't. Ríos is a great professional and person, I'm sure, but he has 2 goals this year. He has 7 career goals in 53 MLS appearances. He's prolific at lower leagues (40 goals for North Carolina and Nashville in the USL), but I don't agree with Lattanzio when he says that Ríos is a "natural goalscorer." He's played 24.4 90s in MLS and has 7 goal; that's not a "natural" goalscorer to me. With all that said, Ríos scored and we won which means that we're assuredly going to see the same lineup we just saw.


Shinyashiki just signed an extension but isn't trusted as a winger or a striker. At this point, I'm not quite sure why we resigned him if he's not trusted for either of those roles. I can only assume a new manager will be tasked with making him and Świderski work. Lattanzio certainly has no desire to do this.


On the brighter side, Jóźwiak continues to perform better on the left wing. He's still not producing much end product, but I don't think there's much argument that he's been dangerous over the past couple of games. With an xG of 1.7 I think there's some bad luck involved with Jóźwiak's lack of goals. That number isn't great and you want it higher from a DP winger, but it still speaks to the fact he has made some chances but just hasn't gotten any luck. It feels like he has to score at least one before the end of the year.


With Gaines getting some time against NYCFC, let's get him back in the lineup. Vargas shows flashes, but he's still so raw. Gaines was playing his best football before his injury and deserves to finish out the season. I don't love Ríos as a starter, but having Jóźwiak and Gaines flank him with Świderski behind him makes it a lot more palatable.

Gaines possession percentiles vs. MLS CAMs/wingers over the past 365 days, via FBref
Gaines possession percentiles vs. MLS CAMs/wingers over the past 365 days, via FBref

Look, all of those numbers aren't pretty. The miscontrols and dispossession numbers are especially concerning for me, although fan favorite Ben Bender is averaging 2.53 miscontrols/90 and 2.03 dispossession/90 (i.e., higher numbers than Gaines), but isn't vilified anywhere close to as much as Gaines. This isn't about that though. Rather, look at his dribbling numbers and carries. What I find interesting about both is that he's not doing either at a super high rate but when he does, he's effective. He's only in the 44th percentile for dribbles attempted, but he's really GOOD at it when he does it. He's only in the 15th percentile for carries, but in the 83rd percentile for progressive carry distance and the 87th percentile for carries into the penalty area. He's primarily a final third player and a dangerous one at that. McKinze has a lot to work on, but there is a player in here.


The rest of the lineup seems entrenched at this point. Bronico continues to show heavy legs but at this po,int he's not going to get a rest. Jones seems to have solidified a starting role, while a Walkes-Malanda partnership will probably last for the rest of the season. I'm not quite sure why we're not seeing Santos or Byrne start. After seeing his cameos, I'm really excited to see Bryne for a full 90 and I hope that happens in Chicago. Afful is a great professional, but there's nothing he can do that Byrne or Lyndsey can't. The difference is those two will be on the team next year; Harrison won't be. He shouldn't be taking these minutes.


Prediction: Chicago 1 - Charlotte 1



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