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The DC Preview

Editor's note: This isn't a "Part II" preview because the blog didn't exist when we played DC the first time - so you're getting a typical full-roster preview for this re-match.


I'm often loathe to call games "must win," as my personal opinion is very few are. However, when looking at Charlotte's current place in the East and combining it with their remaining schedule, this game against DC has to be classified as a must-win.

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

53.0%

11.14

4.14

25 (25.4)

31 (28.3)

26 (10th in East)

6.52 (6.89)

DC United

56.9%

10.57

3.24

28 (26.3)

44 (33.8)

21 (14th in East)

6.46 (6.89)

Not only is DC last in the East, but, when you look at the league as a whole, they're 27th (of 28) in terms of points. Those goals allowed are last in the East and 2nd to last in the entire league. The xGA points towards some bad luck or terrible goalkeeping. We'll look at that a bit later. The shots/90 and shots on target/90 are both third to last in the league.


The bottom line is that this is not a good team. Their last five game results read: loss-draw-loss-loss-win. DC hasn't held a clean sheet since the beginning of May when they beat Houston 2-0 at home. Over 6 games in July, DC allowed 17 goals, including 7 to Philadelphia in one game. The only positive results DC has gotten over this time period are a draw against Columbus (July 13) and two wins against Orlando (July 4, July 31). The Orlando results are really odd, as they scored 5 goals against Orlando (who scored 3) in Orlando (DC is a bad road team, like Charlotte) and 2-1 at home against Orlando. Orlando, for those unaware, is currently 5th in the East on 30 points (tied on points with RBNY and Columbus). I'll tell you right now if Orlando misses the playoffs, all those players will have to do is remember these two games. If you remove those two Orlando games (which, I know, isn't really how this works), DC hasn't won a game since that Houston game on May 7.


At home, Charlotte has to win this game. It's non-negotiable. Let's hope the weather actually allows us to play.

 
DC at MIN, 7/16, via MLS
DC lineup at MIN, 7/16, via MLS

The big news in DC is, of course, Wayne Rooney taking over as the manager. He's only been in charge one game for DC, so there isn't much to look at with his impact so far. Let's hope the win against Orlando isn't a sign of a "new manager boost." If this wasn't a week with 3 games, I might have tried to look at his time with Derby, but alas. I do wonder what, if any, information Jóźwiak might be able to provide about Rooney's tactics/philosophy, since he played under Rooney at Derby.


One of the big changes over the past few games for DC appears to be a switch from a back 3 (or 5) to a back 4. I admittedly didn't look at every single game, but over the past 4 games, DC has been in either a 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1 (twice for each formation). The last time they were in a back three looks to be that 7-0 beatdown against Philadelphia. Rooney's first game in charge was with a 4-4-2, but it'll be interesting to see what he does against Charlotte.

DC lineup vs. MTL, 7/23, via MLS
DC lineup vs. MTL, 7/23, via MLS

Injury/Suspensions

According to MLS's Availability Report, DC has 3 players injured: forward Adrien Pérez (fractured foot, out since March 14), goalkeeper Bill Hamid (finger injury, out since June 1), and left-back Brad Smith (ACL, out since July 10). Transfermarkt agrees with all of this. To make up for Hamid's absence, DC has recently traded for a goalkeeper: David Ochoa.


Attack

According to DC's roster, they have 7 forwards: Michael Estrada, Taxiarchis Fountas, Nigel, Robertha, Kimarni Smith, Miguel Berry, Pérez, and Ola Kamara. FBref has Jackson Hopkins, Theodore Ku-Dipietro, Griffin Yow, and Martín Rodríguez all listed as "FW,MF," while DC lists them all as midfielders. I'll be including all of them in this section as they all appear to be wide attackers or attacking midfielders. Two of the forwards are new additions: Berry came over from Columbus in a trade and Rodríguez came from Altay SK in the Turkish Süper Lig.

DC lineup vs. ORL, 7/31, via MLS
DC lineup vs. ORL, 7/31, via MLS

Rodríguez hasn't really played much yet, as he only has two appearances for 73 minutes. He is coming off a 29 appearance, 25 start season with Altay where he scored 3 goals and had an assist. DC is probably just managing his minutes right now.


Berry has started 2 games since his acquisition. I had this to say about him before the first Columbus game:

Berry was drafted by Columbus in 2020. He spent parts of 2 seasons on loan with Landon Donovan's San Diego Loyal SC. He was part of the Loyal team that walked off the field after homophobic slurs were directed at a teammate and went unpunished. I know very else about Berry, but him being part of a decision like that speaks volumes about who he is as a person. On the field, he's developing. He had 3 goals in 7 appearances for the Loyal in each season. Last year, back with Columbus, he had 8 goals in 18 appearances (9 starts). So far this year, he is at 2 goals in 13 appearances. At 24, he's not exactly young, but he only has 31 total appearances as a professional. He looks like a player.

For Columbus this year he made a total of 16 appearances with 13 starts but has only managed 2 goals for the year. He's yet to get off the mark with DC. I still think there is a player here, but he has made the same number of appearances as he had last year with Columbus (with 6 more starts), while getting 6 fewer goals. Again, at 24, he's not old, but he probably does need to start producing.


Ku-Dipietro made his first start a couple of games ago. At only 20, he's incredibly young. Last year for Loudoun United, he had 7 goals and 3 assists in 30 appearances (28 starts). Two of those goals were PKs, but 5 non-penalty goals and 3 assists for a 19-year-old winger is pretty good. There's not enough data on him yet to know what he is, but he's made appearances in the past 3 games and, based on where DC is in the standing, I wouldn't be surprised if he gets a lot more playing time this year.


Yow is even younger than Ku-Dipietro at 19. He's got 7 appearances and 3 starts for DC this year, however, he hasn't appeared for them since the May 18th match versus NYCFC. I wouldn't expect to see him this game, but you never know. He does have 3 goals for DC in 32 appearances. Considering he's gotten these goals in his age 17 and 18 seasons, there's definitely talent there.


Jackson Hopkins is the last of the near or actual teenagers. At 18, he's made 9 appearances and 5 starts for DC; this includes starting the past 4 games. He's mostly being deployed from the right side and has 1 assist on the year. Like the other young players, there isn't enough information on Hopkins to make definitive judgements. He appeared in 16 games (8 starts) for Loudoun in 2021 and had 2 goals and an assist that year. He's made a further 5 appearances (4 starts) this year for them. Any teenager who can consistently get playing time impresses me, even if I can't parse out exactly how good they are.


Smith is listed as a defender and forward on FBref. According to FBref, his last few games include appearances as a left winger, right winger, left midfielder, and left back. Based on how DC was playing earlier in the year, I think Smith was being played as a wingback but is probably more of a wide midfielder or winger. The 24-year-old has 2 career goals in 26 appearances for DC.

Estrada heatmap, 2022, via SofaScore
Estrada heatmap, 2022, via SofaScore

Estrada is on a season-long loan with DC from Liga MX side Deportivo Toluca FC. The 26-year-old Ecuadorian has made 16 appearances (11 starts) for DC this year, scoring 4 goals and getting 3 assists. One of those goals is a penalty kick.


Estrada has a real history of goal-scoring. He began his career with El Nacional in the Ecuadorian Serie A. He made 40 appearances and 35 starts for them as a 19-year-old. He scored 18 goals that season, 2 of which were penalties. He moved to Independiente the following season. He stayed with them for two seasons, making a total of 55 appearances, but only 25 starts. His first year was really productive, getting 15 goals (2 of which were penalties) in 31 appearances. However, the following year he only managed 3 goals in 24 appearances and made only 6 starts. He moved to Macará the following year, where he became a starter again, making 25 appearances and 23 starts. He rewarded the playing time with 16 goals (2 penalties) and 4 assists.

Świderski heatmap, 2022, via SofaScore
Świderski heatmap, 2022, via SofaScore

In 2019, he moved to Toluca. Over the next 3 seasons, he would make 56 appearances (32 starts) for them. His best season was 2020-21 when he made 34 appearances and scored 10 goals (including 1 penalty) and 4 assists. He made 15 appearances for them in 2021-22 before moving to DC.


When looking at Estrada's heatmap (above), I immediately thought of Świderski. Estrada's two most active areas are in the penalty area, right around the penalty spot, and the center circle. Lo and behold, if you look at Świderski's, it's very similar. No, they're not the exact same player and Świderski is a much more active player (with a lot more minutes, too), but couple Estrada's heatmap with his history of chipping in assists and you can see some similarities.


Now, Estrada had 2 goals (1 PK) against Charlotte in the first game. He has only had 2 goals since and none since May 21 against Toronto. And that kind of encapsulates Estrada as a player: an enigma. For most players, you see patterns, especially with strikers. For example, many times striker production is directly tied to playing time, which isn't surprising; the more a striker plays, the more opportunities he has, and the more goals he'll score. If a striker has a lot of starts/appearances, but few goals, then you see them lose that playing time and, maybe, move clubs.


Estrada bucks this trend a bit. He plays a lot everywhere he goes, but then seems to lose playing time. Without following his teams, it's impossible for me to say why he loses playing time. Think about his time with Independiente: 31 appearances and 19 starts with 15 goals followed by a year of only 24 appearances and 6 starts with 3 goals. That first year is hugely productive, so his decrease in playing time the following year (especially starts) is surprising. This repeated with Toluca, when he got those 34 appearances and 10 goals then went down to 15 appearances and 0 goals the following year (yes, he was loaned to DC during this time, but you would think if he were producing, Toluca would have either kept him or sold him for an actual fee).


My point is, just by looking at his goal production, you would think Estrada would be a more established starter and he's not. The same thing looks to be happening with DC, although with fewer goals than he historically produces. If he plays, he's not someone you can ignore, as he's shown in his career he can score, but he's not really having a productive year this year.


Robertha is in his 2nd season with DC, having joined from Bulgarian side Levski Sofia. FBref has him spending time as a forward, attacking midfielder, and winger on both sides. Over the past 4 games--i.e., when DC has changed to a back 4--he's been employed as a winger.


Robertha began his career in the Dutch Eredivisie, where he appeared in one game for Feyenoord in 2015-16 before moving to Cambuur. Now, there is no data for him for the 2016-17 season on FBref, so I assume FBref wasn't following whatever division Cambuur was in that year. From 2017-19 he made 42 appearances for Cambuur, including 23 starts. He scored 12 goals and had 4 assists in this time.


He moved to Levski Sofia in 2019 and spent two seasons there. He made 38 appearances (35 starts) over this time and scored 17 goals (0 assists). This included his 2019-20 season when he had 11 goals in 19 appearances! His first year with DC was decently productive as he had 4 goals and an assist over 18 appearances (9 starts). So far this year he has a goal and 3 assists over 14 appearances (5 starts).


Kamara is a true veteran. The 32-year-old is in his 4th season with DC. Last year he got 19 goals in 28 appearances for DC, but a whopping 9 of those goals were penalties. They all count in the end, but the amount of penalties he scored last year obscures his true level. He's at 7 goals and an assist in 19 appearances (10 starts) this season.


Kamara began his career in the Norwegian league, playing for Stabæk and Strømsgodset. He made only 6 appearances for Stabæk, but 114 for Strømsgodset. He scored 43 goals and had 10 assists for Strømsgodset. He also spent time with 1860 Munich in the 2. Bundesliga (2012-13, 10 appearances, 0 goals, 0 assists), Austria Wien (2013-15, 23 appearances, 3 starts, 2 goals, 1 assist), and Molde (2015, 29 appearances, 14 goals, 4 assists).


In 2016 he moved to Columbus. He spent two seasons there, making 59 appearances (53 starts) and scoring 34 goals. He left Columbus for the LA Galaxy in 2018, where he made 31 appearances and scored 14 goals. He then went to Shenzhen in the Chinese Super League for part of 2019. It was not a good time there, as he made only 5 starts and did not score. He returned to MLS in 2019 with DC, making 5 appearances that year and scoring 3 goals. He followed that season up with a 22 appearance, 4-goal season.


The bottom line is that Kamara can score goals, but he's not an elite scorer, at least in my opinion. Most of his season goal totals are padded by at least 2 PKs. Last year's 9 PKs are a true aberration (I mean, are Charlotte even going to have 9 penalty chances this year?) and a 10-goal season is nothing to sneeze at. He's shown over his career, especially in MLS, that if he gets playing time he will usually get double-digit goals.

Fountas heatmap, 2022, via SofaScore
Fountas heatmap, 2022, via SofaScore

Fountas, who is a DP, is the real threat in this attack. The 26-year-old Greek international is in his first season with DC, and what a debut season it has been: he's got 11 goals and an assist in 14 appearances (12 starts). He joined DC after 3 seasons with Rapid Wien in the Austrian Bundesliga, where he made 68 appearances (57 starts) over 3 seasons, scoring 35 goals and getting 9 assists. This includes 2019-20 when he had 19 goals and 4 assists in 27 appearances. In stark contrast to Kamara, Fountas doesn't take PKs. In fact, he's only taken 3 PKs in his career and he's only scored 2 (both in 2018-19 when he was with St. Polten). He has missed a PK this year for DC (I have to assume Kamara wasn't on the field for that one).

Fountas shooting percentiles vs. CAMs/winger, 2022 MLS season, via FBref
Fountas shooting percentiles vs. CAMs/winger, 2022 MLS season, via FBref

It should be noted that Fountas only has 2 career seasons with double-digit goals: that 19-goal season and this season. That's not to say he doesn't have a history of goal scoring and contribution, especially over the past 4 seasons. Through his first 8 professional seasons, he had a total of 17 goals and 12 assists. Since then, over the past 4 seasons, he has had 46 goals and 10 assists. This isn't surprising, as his first 8 seasons included his age 15 (!!!) through 22 seasons. This is a real goal-scorer and someone Charlotte needs to gameplan for.


FBref's scouting report compares Fountas to attacking midfielders/wingers, which aligns with his heatmap pretty well. It does appear that he's started as a striker when DC has gone to a 4-4-2, but the bottom line is that Fountas will go all over the attacking third and is dangerous wherever he is. When looking at the 2022 MLS season, he's in the 99th percentile for goals, xG, npxG, and shots on target. He's in the 98th percentile for npxG+xA, the 86th percentage for shots on target percentage, and the 90th percentage for goals per shot.

Fountas passing percentiles vs. CAMs/winger, 2022 MLS season, via FBref
Fountas passing percentiles vs. CAMs/winger, 2022 MLS season, via FBref

I wouldn't say he's really proficient in many other areas with the exception of some defensive areas: he will pressure well when out of possession (66th percentile for pressures in the middle third, 99th percentile for pressures in the attacking 3rd) and tackles dribbles well (94th percentile).


Where he is poor and/or needs improvement includes most other areas, especially passing. He's in the 42nd percentile for aerials won, 20th percentile for dribbles completed, 6th percentile for carries, 10th percentile for passes attempted, and 4th percentile for passes completed, just to name a few.


At 26, I'm not sure how much improvement can really be expected. He may just be this player, which isn't necessarily a problem. His main contribution is putting the ball in the net and he does it extraordinarily well. I don't think DC as a club or their fans are complaining too much about his deficiencies in other areas.

Fountas possession percentiles vs. CAMs/winger, 2022 MLS season, via FBref
Fountas possession percentiles vs. CAMs/winger, 2022 MLS season, via FBref
Fountas defense percentiles vs. CAMs/winger, 2022 MLS season, via FBref
Fountas defense percentiles vs. CAMs/winger, 2022 MLS season, via FBref

Midfield

DC lists 11 players as midfielders, but a number of those we have already discussed in the attacking section. Their midfielders include Jeremy Garay, Sofiane Djeffal, Ravel Morrison, Moses Nyemen, Drew Skundrcih, Russell Canouse, Chris Durkin, and Victor Pálsson. FBref also lists Azaad Liadi and Abdoul Zanne as midfielders. These last two each only have 1 appearance, wherein Liadi had 9 minutes of game time and Zanne had 4 minutes. Garay has also not appeared yet for DC.


Nyeman is an 18-year-old who has 2 starts on the year. He made 19 appearances (10 starts) last year and 11 appearances (5 starts) in 2020. He has 1 career assist (last year) and has yet to score a goal.


Pálsson is their new DP, but having just signed on July 27, I doubt he'll be able to play. He's spent most of his career in lower level leagues (Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden) before moving to the second division of German football in 2018-19. He spent 3 seasons with Darmstadt 98, before going to Schalke 04 last year. He helped Schalke get back to the Bundesliga, so I'm sure he'd be a solid addition to DC.


Morrison is another of DC's recent signings. He's followed Rooney from Derby. He made his debut last week against Orlando, playing the full 90. The Jamaican international has bounced around constantly in his career. His stops included:

  • West Ham: 2011-12, 2013-14, 2014-15; 18 appearances, 12 starts, 3 goals, 2 assists

  • Birmingham City: 2012-13; 27 appearances, 23 starts, 3 goals, 3 assists

  • QPR: 2013-14; 20 appearances, 15 starts, 6 goals, 2 assists

  • Cardiff City: 2014-15; 7 appearances, 1 start, 0 goals, 0 assists

  • Lazio: 2015-16; 4 appearances, 0 starts, 0 goals, 0 assists

  • Atlas: 2017-18; 18 appearances, 8 starts, 3 goals, 0 assists

  • Östersund: 2019; 6 appearances, 5 starts, 0 goals, 0 assists

  • Sheffield United: 2019-20; 1 appearance, 0 starts, 0 goals, 0 assists

  • Middlesbrough: 2019-20; 3 appearances, 3 starts, 0 goals, 0 assists

  • ADO Den Haag: 2020-21; 4 appearances, 1 start, 0 goals, 0 assists

  • Derby County: 2021-22; 36 appearances, 25 starts, 4 goals, 4 assists

I honestly don't know if I've seen a player switch clubs every year. Before last year with Derby, the most appearances he had ever had in a season was 27 with Birmingham City, way back in 2012-13, and 31 appearances between QPR and West Ham in 2013-14. The majority of his career is comprised of single-digit appearances. When he does play, he has shown he can chip in goals from the midfield, but the way some in the MLS community and media have hyped up this transfer makes no sense. This is a guy who literally has never been able to nail down a starting place at a team and he's now 29. Why is this a big deal?


I'm sure his connection with Rooney is strong and he seems to have been able to get a lot out of him last year with Derby. Overall, though, this feels like a move that was made because Rooney trusts him, not because he's been identified by DC as a good player. It reminds me of how Matic follows Mourinho around. When Rooney leaves, I wouldn't expect Morrison to stay around (if he doesn't leave before then, as is his habit).


Durkin and Skundrich have both spent time as midfielders and defenders. Skundrich has made 18 appearances (9 starts) while Drukin has 16 appearances (13 starts). Both have 1 assist on the year, while Durkin also has a goal. Neither player is a great passer for a midfielder and both seem just average defensively. Durkin presses decently in the middle 3rd (75th percentile) and makes a good number of interceptions (82nd percentile). He's also good in the air: 66th percentile for aerials won, 91st percentile for aerials lost, and 93rd percentile for aerials won percentage. Skundrich is better defensively, as he's in the 77th percentile for dribblers tackled, 88th percentile for pressures, 93rd percentile for middle 3rd pressures, and 85th percentile for attacking 3rd pressure, but he's also 26 compared with Durkin who is 22.

Canouse defensive percentiles vs. midfielders, past 365 days of MLS, via FBref
Canouse defensive percentiles vs. midfielders, past 365 days of MLS, via FBref

Canouse is in his 6th season with DC and has made 104 appearances and 98 starts over this time. He has 5 career goals and 4 career assists, and he has one of each this year having made 12 appearances (10 starts). Like Durkin and Skundrich, he's not a good passer but does pressure well in the midfield. In fact, as you can see from his defensive percentiles to the left, his overall defensive profile is pretty solid (with the exception of his habit of being dribbled past). He has missed a lot of time recently with a thigh injury. While he did play a bit in the Minnesota game, he didn't appear for DC against Montréal or Orlando. I can't find any concrete details on his status (although admittedly only spent a quick google search on it), so it's unclear if he'll feature Wednesday.


Djeffal has made 18 appearances and 13 starts for DC this year. The 22-year-old French international is in his first professional season having been drafted by DC in the 2nd round of the 2022 SuperDraft. He played for the Oregon State Beavers and was the 2021 Pac-12 Conference Men's Soccer Player of the Year. The fact that he has basically walked into DC's lineup straight out of college speaks to his talent (or at least DC's view of his talent).

Djeffal defensive percentiles vs. midfielders, 2022 MLS season, via FBref
Djeffal defensive percentiles vs. midfielders, 2022 MLS season, via FBref

Unsurprisingly, Djeffal is struggling with his passing overall, except when it comes to long passing. Compared to midfielders for the 2022 MLS season, he's in the 2nd percentile in short distance passes completed and attempted and the 29th percentile for medium passes completed and attempted. However, he's in the 86th percentile for long passes completed and the 88th percentile for long passes attempted. His pass completion for each of these areas isn't great (83.3% for short passing, 87.1% for medium passing, and 70.1% for long pass completion), but he's clearly not afraid to stretch the field. To add to this, he's in the 88th percentile for switches.


For such a young player, he's been really good defensively. These numbers are just for the 2022 season, but his work rate in the midfield is impressive.


The fact that his shooting, passing, and possession numbers are lacking isn't surprising for such an inexperienced player. His already solid defensive numbers and fearlessness in passing should have DC fans excited for his future.


Defense

DC lists 10 players as defenders, including one (Jacob Greene) on loan and Smith, who as we discussed is out for the year with an ACL injury. It should also be noted that DC traded away wingback/right-back Julian Gressel on July 15. DC's healthy defenders include: Steve Birnbaum, Brendan Hines-Ike, Donovan Pines, Andy Najar, Chris Odoi-Atsem, Tony Alfaro, Sami Guediri, Gaoussou Samaké, and Rio Hope-Gund.


Hope-Gund hasn't appeared in a game for DC this year, while Samaké has 3 appearances, including one start. Samaké doesn't have a goal or assist on the year, or in his MLS career (his appearances this year are his only in MLS).


They have a number of other defenders who have made a good number of appearances, but not a lot of starts. Odoi-Atsem has 10 appearances but only 2 starts; Alfaro has 9 appearances but only 3 starts; Guediri has 6 appearances and 4 starts. Since Smith's injury, it appears that Guediri has taken over that position, as he's started the last 2 games and 4 out of the past 5. Alfaro hasn't started since 5/21. As a CB and with DC's switch to a back 4 (i.e., only 2 CBs, rather than 3 playing), his time might be hard to come by. Odoi-Atsem did get the start last week against Orlando, but being it was only his 2nd start of the year--and he only had 2 starts and 9 appearances last year--it's hard to know if he'll get the nod again. None of these players have a goal or assist this year. Alfaro is 29 and Odoi-Atsem is 27, while Guediri is 24. Considering where DC is in the table, it makes sense that Guediri, and other young(er) players, are getting playing time.

Pines defensive percentiles vs. CBs, past 365 days of MLS, via FBref
Pines defensive percentiles vs. CBs, past 365 days of MLS, via FBref

Pines and Najar have each started 10 games, with Pines having 13 total appearances and Najar having 12 total appearances.


Najar has filled in across the backline, including playing as a CB, RB, LB, and wingback (according to FBref). The 29-year-old Honduran is in his 2nd season back with DC, having started his career with them as a 16-year-old back in 2010. He was with DC for 3 years before going to Anderlecht in Belgium. He made 126 appearances for Anderlecht over 6 seasons, recording 11 goals and 12 assists. His best season was his second year (2014-15) with them when he had 6 goals and 5 assists. He returned to MLS in 2020 with LAFC, but only made 8 appearances for them. He returned to DC last year.


Najar is an aggressive passer; he's in the 93rd percentile for progressive passing distance and the 94th percentile for long passes completed (compared with other MLS fullbacks over the past 365 days). Defensively, he's not really going to pressure much (48th percentile for pressures), is an average tackler (70th percentile), and can intercept the ball (99th percentile). Where he shines is as a dribbler, in the 99th percentile for dribbles completed, dribbles attempted, players dribbled past, nutmegs, and progressive carrying distance. He's also in the 94th percentile for carries into the final third and the 82nd percentile for carries into the penalty area. The challenge with playing Najar in a backline is allowing him to do what he does best (attack) while covering him defensively.


Pines is in his 4th season with DC. He's 24 years old, which is still young for a CB. Defensively, his percentiles are elite. It should be noted he's only played a total of 3,636 minutes over the past 3 years and only 2,282 minutes over the past two seasons. As a result, these percentiles absolutely show a good defender, but with more starts, who knows what might happen.


One of the reasons I assume he isn't playing a lot is because he's an absolutely terrible passer. He's in the 3rd percentile for passes completed, 9th percentile for passes attempted, and 6th percentile for pass completion percentage (75.8%). I could go through each distance for his passing, but all of those percentiles are in the same percentile range (i.e., single-digit percentile range, or barely above the 10th percentile). Listen, CBs don't have to be Kroos on the ball, but they absolutely can't be this, especially in a back 4. For reference, Corujo, who I like but also think is a poor distributor of the ball, is in the 62nd percentile for passes completed, the 63rd percentile for passes attempted, and the 53rd percentile for pass completion percentage (86.3%). Pines is absolutely ready to be a starter in this league from a purely defensive standpoint, but if his distribution doesn't improve, I don't know how he ever becomes a true starter.


Birnbaum and Hines-Ike are the starters at CB. The 31-year old Birnbaum has made 21 starts, while the 27 year old Hines-Ike has made 19 starts. Birnbaum has a goal on the season.


Birnbaum has been with DC basically his whole career. He had one appearance for Richmond as a 23-year-old in 2014. Since then he's played exclusively for DC, making 216 appearances (211 starts). He has 11 career goals and 4 career assists, which, for a CB, is good. Birnbaum isn't a good passer, either, as he's in the 11th percentile for passes completed and the 12th percentile for passes attempted compared with other CBs in the MLS over the past 365 days. Honestly, his passing profile looks a lot like Pines', so maybe my statement about Pines never being able to be a starter is wrong. I wouldn't want a CB with this poor distribution skills, but Birnbaum has sure had a good career, so what do I know?


Defensively, Birnbaum is not great. He's in the 8th percentile for tackles, 4th percentile for dribblers tackled, and 24th percentile for pressures. He's good at blocking shots (73rd percentile) and saving shots (96th percentile) and clearances (96th percentile), but otherwise he's average to poor. He is really strong in the air though (99th percentile for aerials won and percentage of aerials won). Defensive statistics are still lacking, but, aside from him being a DC lifer, I have no idea why he starts so much, especially when you have a younger, better version of this defender in Pines. I'm sure I'm missing something, but based on pure numbers, if I were a DC fan, I'd be calling for this change.


Hines-Ike is in his 2nd year with DC, having come over from Kortrijk in the Belgian league. Of the past 3 defenders, he's the best passer, but still isn't great (45th percentile for passes completed, 84th percentile for long passes completed vs. CBs in MLS over the past 365 days). Defensively, he's a good tackler (83rd percentile for dribblers tackled, 76th percentile for tackles won) and is decent at pressuring (55th percentile for pressures, 60th percentile for successful pressures).


DC's defense is a sieve and , looking at their CBs, it begins to make sense. Najar has filled in at CB and, while I understand trying to get his passing ability into that position, defensively it doesn't make sense. Birnbaum is basically a guaranteed starter and, from a purely numbers perspective, the worst defender. Pines is the CB who should be starting alongside Hines-Ike. Let's hope that doesn't happen versus Charlotte and we get the worse backline group.


Goalkeeping

DC has 4 goalkeepers listed on their roster: Rafael Romo, Ochoa, Hamid, and Jon Kempin. Kempin has 2 starts, but that was in April and he hasn't had an appearance since then.


Hamid and Romo both have 10 appearances, with Hamid having 10 starts and Romo having 9. Neither have been good, even before Hamid's injury. Hamid had a 67.3% save percentage, allowing 1.68 goals per 90, and a PSxG+/- of -2.7. Hamid hasn't had a positive PSxG+/- since 2019, when he had an absurd +9.1 (he was also at +4.5 in 2018). He's followed up that season with a PSxG+/- of -5.1 (2020) and -0.6 (2021).


Romo is in his first season with DC, joining from OH Leuven in the Belgian first division. He's at a 57.1% save percentage, allowing 2.43 goals per 90, and a terrible -5.2 PSxG+/-. PSxG+/- data isn't available for him in previous seasons, but GA90 is: his career GA90 is 1.67. He was at 2.00 last year and 1.79 the year before.


Looking at these numbers it's not a surprise that DC has been looking at alternatives. They'd probably need one even if Hamid was healthy. Ochoa made 25 starts last year for RSL. He had a 67.5% save percentage, a 1.60 GA90, and a -0.5 PSxG+/-. The numbers aren't great, but at only 22, at least he has potential going for him.


I don't know if I would expect Ochoa to play and I would guess we'll see Romo. Coupled with the bad defenders in front of him, Charlotte should have plenty of opportunities. But I've said that before...


Conclusion

It'll be interesting to see the effect Rooney has on this team, as well as the new arrivals. I think Berry is smart business, while they appear to be remaking their midfield with Morrison and Pálsson. Fountes is a legitimate star, while Kamara is a solid attacker. Yet, the defense and goalkeeping need a lot of work. Rooney isn't a magician and will have his work cut out.


With the postponement of the Columbus game, I wonder how that impacts Lattanzio's plans. A lot was made of Ruiz's absence and I assumed it was with an eye towards 3 games in 7 days. I wonder if other rests were planned and may be unnecessary now.


I wasn't a huge fan of the lineup Lattanzio put out against Columbus, however, it might work better against a poor team like DC. I still think McNeill needs a break on the bench (though he did have a moment or two against Columbus in the short time play was actually able to happen). Bender's ability to make runs and find space would probably work in this match.


I was happy to see Gaines start and I thought he had a bright start to the game. I was in the supports' section and I heard a lot of groaning in the section as Gaines' crosses didn't find a Charlotte player. Now, Charlotte was attacking the opposite end of the pitch, so it wasn't a great angle for me, but I thought he was making the correct choices. Just because a cross doesn't find a teammate, doesn't mean it was a poor one. I thought he made some really smart choices with his cutbacks and attempts, and I'd like to see him play more.


The same can't be said for Reyna. Reyna's best attributes are his dribbling and carrying. Gaines does that. Give me Jóźwiak or Shinyashiki on the left instead of Reyna.


Considering our options, I wasn't surprised at the backline. Afful was getting roasted by Etienne and I think Lindsey is needed against Columbus. We're going to start that game in the 16th minute and I'd be perfectly fine with us substituting Lindsey in immediately. DC doesn't have near the quality of attacker that Columbus does, so my assumption that Afful will start again doesn't worry me as much this game.


Fingers crossed this game can be played and fingers crossed we don't have another delay. I'm not sure I could handle another one. Weather please cooperate*.


Prediction: Charlotte 3 - DC 0


*Dear Super Rich Owner, please build a stadium equipped to handle Charlotte's summer weather. These weather delays aren't going to be limited to this year. According to Google, you are worth 16.7 BILLION dollars, so I also don't want to hear about you needing PSLs or tax-payer funding to build it. You're worth more than Jerry Jones and Stan Kroenke. A new stadium is chump change to you. You'll earn it back in a year. A 30,000-capacity, soccer-specific stadium, with a retractable roof and natural grass turf, would be perfect! Thank you!

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