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The NYCFC Preview

There has been a lot of angst amongst the faithful after the LAFC defeat and, to be quite honest, I'm perplexed by it. LAFC has one of the best, deepest, and most talented rosters in the league. They are among the league leaders in goals for and goals against, while being virtually unbeatable at home (1 lost and 2 draws all season long). I believe the (LA) broadcast mentioned they are on pace to obliterate the league record for points in a season. In my opinion, to believe that we were going to take points against this team on the road was overly optimistic at best and naive at worst.

I don't mean that to denigrate anyone who was hoping for points--I was myself, though I knew it'd be a long shot. It's simply that some of the reactions ("What is wrong with this team?" "I'm about done with this team.") seem a bit too much. I've said this many times this season, but it's a matter of expectations. If you are a fan who expected an expansion team, in Year 1, to be able to compete with the elite of this league, you were always bound to be disappointed. If you were a fan hoping that this team would be competing for and getting a playoff spot, then you were and still are likely to be disappointed.

I count myself among this latter group. I want this team to make the playoffs, but, at the same time, I always thought that was going to be an uphill battle. The current chances of Charlotte making the playoffs are incredibly low. As of Monday, August 15, FiveThirtyEight has us at a 7% chance of doing so. That feels fair, unfortunately.

With all that said, I will continue to root for this squad. Things can change, and change quickly. A month or two ago, the chances of Chicago or Toronto making the playoffs were dire. Technically, they still are (13% for Toronto and 23% for Chicago according to FiveThirtyEight), but anyone who has seen those teams playing over the past few games knows they're trending in the right direction.

The problem with being overly hopeful about Charlotte's chances lies in 2 factors:

  1. The absolute inability of this team to get points on the road. We have 9 total games left, 4 of which will be on the road. To be honest, there's opportunity there, as all 4 of those games are against teams above us in the standing, with 2 of those games (at Cincinnati and at Chicago) being against teams that are directly ahead of us in the standings. Yet, we've taken 5 points all year on the road (1 win and 2 draws). That doesn't bode well for these future road games and I can't be confident we'll get anything from those games.

  2. Charlotte does not draw; we win or (more often) lose. On the year we have 9 wins, 2 draws, and 14 losses. Only Sporting KC has more losses and we're tied with DC for 2nd most losses in the league. With the margins for the playoffs being as tight as they are--just 5 points separate 5th place Columbus and us in 11th place--just having turned 3 or 4 of those losses into draws would have been incredibly valuable to us.

Nothing is impossible, but I'm not sure how this team cobbles together enough points to get in. I sincerely hope I'm wrong, but it will take an absolutely amazing run of form for us to even have a chance.




Shots per game

Shots on target per game

Goals for (xG)

Goals against (xGA)

Points (standings)

WhoScored team rating (SofaScore team rating)

Charlotte FC




30 (28.6)

29 (34.4)

29 (11th in the East)

6.54 (6.78)





45 (48.4)

27 (29.1)

42 (3rd in the East)

6.78 (6.96)

A few days after facing one of the best scoring and defensive teams in the league, Charlotte faces another. NYC is tied with Philadelphia for the most goals in the East, though they've played one fewer game than Philly. They're tied for 2nd fewest goals against with Columbus, behind only Philadelphia's ridiculous, league-leading 19 goals against (seriously, this is 5 fewer goals allowed than the next closest team in the league, and 8 fewer than the next closest team in the East).

Like LA, NYCFC shoots a lot every 90 and gets a lot of them on target. They're third in the entire league for shots per 90 and for shots on target per 90. On top of that, they dominate the ball. They're 3rd in the league in possession behind only San Jose and Atlanta.

NYC is not as good as LA, especially since they've lost their best player (more on that shortly), but they're still formidable. Their run of form isn't great (W-W-D-L-L over the past 5 games), but this is another game where you'd be hard-pressed to predict points for Charlotte.


Before getting into the preview, I'd be remiss not to talk about the departure of Taty Castellanos. The 23-year-old Argentinian was an absolute stud for NYCFC over the past 5 seasons, scoring 50 goals and getting 18 assists in 109 total appearances (91 starts). For his career with NYC, he scored 0.56 goals per 90. He's still 6th on the league leaderboard in goals (with 13), even though he moved to Girona in La Liga on July 25th. Last year he was the joint league leader on goals (with 19). To say his loss is huge is an understatement.

Casellanos' last start for NYC came July 23rd in a 2-0 win over Inter Miami. In the 3 subsequent games, NYC has drawn once and lost twice. The departure of Castellanos is certainly not the entire reason for this drop in form, but it's likely a big reason. Charlotte is lucky to be facing NYCFC without him, but Castellanos' former team remains talented.

NYCFC at Montréal, 7/30, via MLS
NYCFC at Montréal, 7/30, via MLS

FBref has NYCFC playing in a 4-2-3-1 for the majority of their matches. In only two instances have they lined up in a different formation: 7/13 against Dallas when they were in a 3-5-2 and 7/23 against Miami when they were in a 4-4-2. For the past 3 games, MLS has them in a 4-2-3-1, so it seems incredibly likely that's what we'll be seeing Wednesday night.


According to the MLS Availability Report, NYCFC is dealing with 2 injuries: Keaton Parks (OUT: calf) and Alexander Callens (OUT: MCL).

These are not insignificant injuries, as Callens had 22 starts (and 3 goals for a CB!) on the year, while Parks had 14 appearances (11 starts) with 2 goals. The Callens injury is very recent, happening in the Columbus game on 8/6. Further, Tom Bogert recently published a list of the best available free agents for the upcoming season and Callens was on it. He is a big, big miss for this team. Couple his loss with Castellanos' departure and all of a sudden the spine of NYCFC is somewhat wrecked.

NYCFC at Columbus, 8/6, via MLS
NYCFC at Columbus, 8/6, via MLS


NYCFC lists 6 players as a forward (including Castellanos): Jonathan Jimenez, Kevin O'Toole, Talles Magno Bacelar Martins, Thiago Andrade, and Héber Araujo dos Santos. Jimenez and O'Toole have yet to make an appearance for the club (Jimenez is listed as "Unavailable"). FBref lists a couple of other players as "FW,MF": Santiago Rodríguez and Gabriel Pereira.

The replacement of Castellanos is going to be a "by committee" approach for this team, however, the guy who is taking his spot in the team is Héber. The 31-year-old Brazilian is in his 4th season with NYCFC and, by and large, has been a disappointment. Before NYC, Héber was in the Croatian league and was quite prolific. He had 35 goals and 5 assists in 68 games (59 starts) across 3 seasons with Slaven Belupo and Rijeka.

This form got him a move to NYC, where he started incredibly well. IN 2019, he had 15 goals and 3 assists in 22 appearances (18 starts). Over the next two seasons, though, he only made 19 appearances (11 starts) and had 1 goal and 2 assists. This included last year when he made only 7 appearances (0 starts) with 0 goals and 0 assists.

NYCFC at Miami, 7/13, via MLS
NYCFC at Miami, 7/13, via MLS

In fairness to him, this year he is bouncing back. He has 6 goals (1 PK) in 20 appearances (6 starts), but on only 3.7 xG, I question the longevity of the goalscoring. His percentiles, especially the shooting ones, are impressive, but he has only 740 minutes over the past 365 days. Aside from his goalscoring, nothing else jumps out. His passing is decent, especially his short passing, but it's nothing that will overly concern you. He's not a dribbler (6th percentile for dribbles completed) nor a carrier of the ball (4th percentile for progressive carriers). If he's not scoring, he's simply not adding much.

Thiago is a 21-year-old Brazilian in his 2nd season with NYC. He joined in 2021, having spent a season at Bahia in the Brazilian Série A. He's played a decent amount for such a young player, as he's gotten into 44 games over the past two seasons for NYC. He's only started 18 of those games, though, and only 1 of the last 5. On the year, he has 933 minutes or about 10 90s. He's scored 5 goals and had 1 assist in this limited time.

Thiago heatmap, 2022, via SofaScore
Thiago heatmap, 2022, via SofaScore

Thiago plays on the wing and will show up on either side of the pitch. His map fascinates me, as he's close to the touchline, especially on the right side, except for when he gets close to the penalty area. In that part of the pitch, he vacates the wide areas and goes inside.

His passing is pretty poor, as he's only a 79.5% career passer and only 81.6% on the year. On the flip side, he's active defensively. He's a willing and good tackler for his position, averaging 2.58 tackles per 90. He's in the 82nd percentile for tackles won. Finally, Thiago attempts a lot of dribbles (82nd percentile) but isn't overly successful (35th percentile for successful dribble percentage). He will carry the ball into the penalty area at a high rate, though (87th percentile).

Pereira is another young Brazilian (in fact, of the 5 attackers we're going to be talking about in this section, 4 of them are Brazilian). He's in his first season with NYC having joined from Brazilian giants Corinthians. In his limited time this year, he's been exceedingly efficient. He has 5 goals and an assist in 16 appearances (just 6 starts). He only has a total of 694 minutes (or 7.7 90s), which has resulted in him having a 0.65 goals/90. Since Castellanos' departure, Pereira has started every match.

Whereas Thiago will play on either wing, Pereira is a right-winger. His heatmap shows a player who rarely thinks about going onto the left side of the pitch.

Pereira heatmap, 2022, via SofaScore
Pereira heatmap, 2022, via SofaScore

With so few minutes, his percentiles should be viewed somewhat skeptically. His shooting percentiles are off the charts (99th percentile for goals, 98th percentile for shots on target and shots on target percentage, 99th percentile for goals per shot, 91st percentile for xG, 94th percentile for npxG/shot), but that's unsurprising considering his goal return. I do think it's important to note in his two seasons with Corinthians, he only had 2 goals and 2 assists in 1,555 minutes. Is his goalscoring with NYC what he is and, as a young player, he just never got to show it for Corinthians? Or is he overperforming? His xG is at 2.9, for what it's worth.

Rodríguez passing percentiles vs. MLS CAMs/winger over the past 365 days of MLS, via FBref
Rodríguez passing percentiles vs. MLS CAMs/winger over the past 365 days of MLS, via FBref

Pereira likes to take players on (73rd percentile for dribbles attempted) and is okay at it (54th percentile for successful dribble percentage). He's good at going past players (82nd percentile for players dribbled past), so Mora, who I assume will start, will need to be on his game.

Passing-wise, Pereira is just okay and it's an area he'll need to improve. He's at 78.0% for his total passing this year, which places him in the 63rd percentile. His short passing is, well, passable at 87.9%, but his medium passing (81.8%) and long passing (41.7%) need a lot of work.

Rodríguez plays as a CAM for NYC. He's in his 2nd season with NYC and has moved into a starting role this year. He had 21 appearances (11 starts) with 3 goals last year. His playtime has ballooned to 23 appearances with 22 starts this season. He has 2 goals and 8 assists on the year, making him one of the best playmakers this year in the league. Note: As a reminder, I use FBref for my assists because I don't agree with MLS's use of hockey assists. If you use MLS, he's at 10 assists, which is good for a tie for 5th in the league. Using FBref, he's tied for 2nd in the league in assists, behind only Diego Fagúndez of Austin).

Rodríguez goal and shot creation vs. MLS CAMs/wingers over the past 365 days, via FBref
Rodríguez goal and shot creation vs. MLS CAMs/wingers over the past 365 days, via FBref

When on the ball, Rodríguez is incredibly dangerous. His completion rates aren't elite, but when it comes to passes that unlock defenses, he is. Look at his percentiles (above) for key passes, passes into the final third, passes into the penalty area, and progressive passes. They're all in the mid-to-high-90s.

His goal and shot creation percentiles further back up the danger he poses when he has time on the ball. The GCA from defensive actions points towards his contributions on defense, where he pressures well (76th percentile, 87th percentile for successful pressures, 76th percentile for attacking 3rd pressures). These numbers point to a player who harries the opposition and when he gets the ball back, is immediately looking to punish the defense. Coupled with his tackling ability (89th percentile for tackles won) and you have an energetic CAM who isn't afraid to put in work on the defensive side of the ball. If Sobociński ends up playing again, he and Walkes will need to be very intentional with their passing.

Talles Magno heatmap, 2022, via SofaScore
Talles Magno heatmap, 2022, via SofaScore

The final attacker is their Young DP, Talles Magno. The 20-year-old Brazilian is in his 2nd season with NYC, having joined from Vasco da Gama in the Brazilian Série A. Talles Magno made 49 appearances (42 starts) as a 16 and 17-year-old. He scored 5 goals and had an assist in that time. He joined NYCFC in 2021 when, as an 18-year-old, he made 15 appearances (5 starts) and scored twice. This year, he's become a definitive starter, playing in all 24 of NYC's games and starting 23 of those games. He has 6 goals (1 PK) and 6 assists on the year. At 20!

Talles Magno is a good passer in the short and medium ranges (80th percentile for short pass completion percentage and 84th percentile for medium pass completion percentage, though only the 34th percentile for medium passes attempted). His long passing could use some work (66th percentile for long pass completion percentage), but he doesn't attempt a lot of them (24th percentile for long passes attempted). He's a rather safe passer (39th percentile for progressive passing distance, 64th percentile for key passes, 42nd percentile for passes into the final third) and he does not cross the ball at all (2nd percentile). He can get away with this conservative passing due to the presence of Rodríguez and his ambitious passing.

Talles Magno GCA/SCA vs. MLS CAMs/wingers over the past 365 days, via FBref
Talles Magno GCA/SCA vs. MLS CAMs/wingers over the past 365 days, via FBref

Like the other wingers on this team, he likes to take players on. Unlike the other two, he attempts a lot of dribbles (87th percentile for dribbles attempted) and completes a lot of them (93rd percentile for dribbles completed, 82nd percentile for successful dribble percentage). He dribbles past people (93rd percentile for players dribbled past) and carries the ball incredibly well (82nd percentile for total carrying distance, 93rd percentile for progressive carrying distance, 91st percentile for progressive carries, 89th percentile for carries into the penalty area). He's not perfect on the ball, though, and needs to improve his ball control (21st percentile for miscontrols at 2.68/90 and 13th percentile for dispossessed at 2.72/90). At only 20, if he keeps playing and progressing as he has, he won't be in New York for much longer. Europe is going to come calling about this kid soon.

Acevedo passing percentiles vs. MLS midfielders over the past 365 days, via FBref
Acevedo passing percentiles vs. MLS midfielders over the past 365 days, via FBref


NYC lists 10 players as a midfielder, but a couple of them (Pereira and Rodríguez) we've discussed above and it also included Parkes who is out injured. The remaining midfielders include Maximiliano Moralez, Justin Haak, Gedion Zelalem, Alfredo Morales, Andres Jasson, Alexandru Mitriță, and Nicolás Acevedo. Mitriță is the second of NYC's DPs, along with Castellanos, who isn't at the club, as he's been on loan for the past couple of seasons. He was with Saudi side Al-Ahli in 2020-21, PAOK in the Greek Super League in 2021-22, and joined Al-Raed in the Saudi league on July 25th.

Jasson has made only 10 appearances for the club, with just 2 starts. He has one assist on the season. He's been playing as a wingback (according to FBref) but has just two appearances since the beginning of July.

Haak and Zelalem both have 8 appearances, with the former having 2 starts and the latter having 0 starts. Neither has a goal or assist on the season. Haak has only 11 appearances in MLS, while Zelalem has only 16 appearances for NYC over the past 3 years. Zelalem's career has never materialized as many thought and, in his career, he only has 2 goals and 3 assists. He hasn't scored since 2019 with Swope Park (USL Championship) and hasn't had an assist since 2016-17 with Arsenal's U23s.

Acevedo defensive percentiles vs. MLS midfielders over the past 365 days, via FBref
Acevedo defensive percentiles vs. MLS midfielders over the past 365 days, via FBref

The remaining 3 midfielders have all rotated through the starting lineup. Acevedo will also occasionally start as a right-back. Acevedo has appeared in 23 games (19 starts), Morales has appeared in 22 games (20 starts), and Moralez has appeared in 20 games (17 starts). Acevedo has no goals or assists, Morales has one assist, and Moralez has 1 goal and 6 assists.

Acevedo is in his 3rd season with NYCFC, having made 59 appearances and 35 starts for the club. While he has played a bit at right-back, he's mostly a defensive midfielder, so all percentiles will be against midfielders for him.

He joined from Liverpool in the Uruguayan Primera División--not the English counterparts. Acevedo is a defensive player, through and through. He's never scored or had an assist in his entire career (at least in league games).

He gets into the team due to his defensive ability, passing, and calmness on the ball. Defensively, he provides good cover for his teammates and backline. He's not a high-volume "pressure-er" (except for in the final third), but he tackles well and reads the game well.

He's dominating touches, especially in the defensive and middle parts of the pitch. He dribbles and carries the ball well for a defensive midfielder. I would personally like to see a defensive-minded midfielder be a bit more secure with the ball. Look at his miscontrols and dispossessed percentiles; he's not sloppy, but he's also not what I would call secure. Overall, his numbers point to a player who readily makes himself available to his teammates and provides good defensive coverage in the midfield, which allows players like Rodríguez and Moralez to be more attack-minded.

Speaking of Moralez, the veteran DP can still get it done. At 35, Moralez is still very capable and, if he plays, someone who will cause Charlotte issues. Moralez is about as consistent a player as you can get. Over his career, which spans 19 seasons and 6 clubs, Moralez has 84 goals and 100 assists. He's in his 6th season with NYCFC and has made 153 appearances (142 starts) for the club with 25 goals and 50 assists. Except for the COVID-shortened 2020 season, Moralez has never had fewer than 8 assists in a season and has 2 seasons of double-digit assists. With 6 on the year so far, he's well on his way to matching that number.

Moralez heatmap, 2022, via SofaScore
Moralez heatmap, 2022, via SofaScore

Moralez goes all over the middle and attacking areas of the pitch. He's not bad defensively, but that's not really why he's in the side. Plus, his size--a generously listed 5'3"--limits him somewhat in that area.

Moralez is an absolutely elite passer. FBref only compares him to CAMs/wingers, whereas he's been playing in a double pivot this year (at least according to the MLS lineups). Regardless, his passing numbers are off the charts, with the exception of his passing percentages. That isn't a knock on him, though, as he's the antithesis of a safe passer. Moralez doesn't look to recycle the ball--that's what Acevedo brings to the squad. Moralez looks to link play and pushes the attack towards the opponent's goal.

While the percentiles below might change a bit were he compared to midfielders, I think he's elite in these areas regardless. The assist numbers are especially impressive because when compared to CAMs, a central midfield would be at a disadvantage.

Moralez passing types vs. MLS CAMs/wingers over the past 365 days, via FBref
Moralez passing types percentiles vs. MLS CAMs/wingers over the past 365 days, via FBref
Moralez passing percentiles vs. MLS CAMs/wingers over the past 365 days, via FBref
Moralez passing percentiles vs. MLS CAMs/wingers over the past 365 days, via FBref

Morales is the last of the midfielders. In his 2nd season with NYCFC, Morales spent the majority of his career in the German leagues. His teams (Hertha BSC, Ingolstadt 04, and Düsseldorf) all bounced between the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga. He's yet to score a goal in MLS, but he did have 4 assists last year and has 1 this year.

Morales is a good passer, but he's more akin to Acevedo than Moralez. He's not particularly daring with his passing and, oddly enough, is pretty poor in the short range (55th percentile for short passes completed, 50th percentile for short passes attempted, and 71st percentile for short pass completion percentage). Defensively, he's not great. He's okay at pressuring but rarely does so (22nd percentile for pressures). He doesn't lose the ball much (85th percentile for miscontrols and 81st percentile for dispossessed) but also doesn't do much with it in terms of carries or dribbles.

Out of the 3 most played CMs, I'd very much prefer to see Morales with one of Acevedo or Moralez. Maxi Moralez did play this weekend for the full 90 and, at 35, I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't play Wednesday. If this is the case, it's a silver lining for Charlotte as the pairing of Acevedo and Morales would be much less dangerous when it comes to passing. Of course, there's no guarantee Moralez doesn't play and there is a chance someone like Zelalem or Haak could start as well.


NYC lists 11 players as a defender, including the injured Callens. The other 10 include DP Thiago Martins Bueno, Samuel Kwaku Owusu, Nico Benalcazar, Christian McFarlane, Vuk Latinovich, Chris Gloster, Malte Amundsen, Tayvon Gray, Anton Tinnerholm, and Maxime Chanot. Owusu, Benalcazar, and McFarlane have yet to appear for NYCFC in MLS.

Latinovich and Tinnerholm haven't really played for NYC this year. Latinovich has just 2 appearances for 21 total minutes, while Tinnerhold has made 4 appearances (1 start) for 169 total minutes. Latinovich made only 3 appearances (1 start) last year and hasn't appeared in a game since April 24th.

Tinnerholm, meanwhile, is a veteran in his 5th season with NYCFC. He spent the majority of his career in the Swedish first division. Until this year, Tinnerholm had been a regular for NYC, appearing in 109 games (106 starts). He ruptured his Achilles last year and was out until June 18th of this year, but shortly afterward injured his ankle and missed about a month. He's made appearances off the bench the last 2 games, so it looks like he's slowly working his way back into game shape.

When healthy, Tinnerhold has been hugely productive. He has 9 goals and 19 assists for NYC over his career. With a midweek game, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him start (though I doubt he'd go the full 90). Even if he doesn't start, I'd expect him to get some game time.

Chanot defensive percentiles vs. MLS CBs over the past 365 days, via FBref
Chanot defensive percentiles vs. MLS CBs over the past 365 days, via FBref

Gloster has made 10 appearances (6 starts) for New York. He has a goal and an assist on the year. He's in his 2nd season with New York, though he only made 4 appearances last year. He's a left-back, but he hasn't played for NYC since the end of June when he only lasted 45 minutes against Philadelphia. This came a game after he started against Minnesota but only lasted 18 minutes. I would normally assume injury was the reason for his short appearances, but transfermarkt doesn't list any. Whatever the reason, he hasn't seen the pitch since.

Chanot plays as a CB for NYC and has made 13 appearances for them this year, but only 7 starts. This is a huge decline for him, as he hadn't had fewer than 18 starts in a season since 2018. In fact, over the past 3 years, he had made 80 total starts. He has one assist this year.

He did start last weekend against Miami and, with Callens' injury, I would expect he'll get some more time as the year goes on. At 32, he's past his prime, and his defensive numbers are really poor. He's in the 85th percentile for clearances and the 95th percentile for tackles in the attacking 3rd. Everything else is in the 20-60th percentile range.

Martins passing percentiles vs. MLS CBs over the past 365 days, via FBref
Martins passing percentiles vs. MLS CBs over the past 365 days, via FBref

I'm kind of disappointed he played against Miami because I don't know if we'll see him. At the same time, NYC is lacking in options at this position. As far as I can tell, their only 4 true CBs are Chanot, Latinovich, Martins, and Callens. With Callens out, it looks like Chanot and Latinovich will be fighting for the spot opposite Martins unless they try to move a fullback to CB.

Martins is in his first season with NYC, having joined from the Marinos in the Japanese J1 League. The Brazilian began his career in Brazil before the move to Japan. He's made 19 appearances (18 starts) for New York and it looks like he's started every game for them since the beginning of July.

He's a good passer, as his numbers to the left show. The long passing intrigues me. It could be high just because he doesn't attempt a ton of them. However, it reminds me of what Mark Titus says about 3-point shooting in college: no one should ever be a +40% 3-point shooter. If you are, you aren't shooting enough. I'd probably say the same to Martins if I were a NYC fan and ask him to attempt these long passes more often.

Martins defensive percentiles vs. MLS CBs over the past 365 days, via FBref
Martins defensive percentiles vs. MLS CBs over the past 365 days, via FBref

It's great when your CB is a good distributor, however, their primary responsibility is to defend and Martins is not great at that, at least according to the advanced metrics. Those are some of the worst numbers you'll see from a starting CB. I should note that defensive metrics rarely give the full impression of a player. I haven't seen a ton of NYC this year, so I can't speak to how well these numbers agree or disagree with his play on the field. I will simply reiterate that when looking at these FBref scouting reports, I don't often see reports that look this poor for a starter.

At fullback, the two main starters have been Amundsen at left back and Gray at right back. Gray appears to have some time at CB, so as NYC tries to make up for the loss of Callens, I wonder if they will try him there more often (it does look to me like he's starting at RB and anytime he's getting at CB is probably late in the game). Amundsen has appeared in 21 games (17 starts) and Gray has appeared in 18 games (15 starts). Neither has a goal or assist on the year and both are young (Amundsen is 24 and Gray is 19).

Amundsen is in his 2nd year with New York, having joined from the Danish League. Last year he had 1 goal and 3 assists in 32 appearances (14 starts). He likes to get forward as his total touches are high (68.38/90, good for the 80th percentile) as well as his attacking penalty box touches (2.34/90, 83rd percentile).

Gray appears to balance out Amundsen's aggressiveness, as he's not getting forward (24th percentile for attacking 3rd touches, 31st percentile for attacking penalty box touches, but 84th percentile for defensive 3rd touches). He's excellent one-on-one with dribblers (97th percentile for dribbled past and percentage of dribblers tackled) and his ability to make a pass under pressure (89th percentile) also jumps out.

If there is one glimmer of hope for Charlotte in this match, it may be the fact that NYCFC is missing its best defender and 3 of their 4 normal starters are either young (Amundsen, Gray) or inexperienced in MLS (Martins), though the latter is less relevant as we're now in August. It's not enough to make me uber confident we can get a result, but it does provide some hope.


NYC has 3 goalkeepers on its roster: Cody Mizell, Luis Barraza, and Sean Johnson. Johnson has started all 24 of NYC's MLS games.

Johnson is in his 6th season with NYCFC, having joined after 7 seasons with Chicago. He's having a good year on the back of 2 previous good years. Over the past 3 years, his goals allowed per 90 sit at 1.09 (2020), 1.07 (2021), and 1.13 (2022). His PSxG+/- over this same period is +3.9 (2020), +1.9 (2021), and +4.9 (2022). That number for this year is good for 6th in the league. His save percentage is at 70.0% this year, which is just 0.9% off his career mark of 70.9%. It should be noted that over the past two years, he's been higher (73.2% in 2021 and 77.8% in 2020).

Johnson's good work is coming off the back of decently difficult chances (62nd percentile for PSxG per shot on target). Unlike many of the other elite teams, as we have seen the defenders on this one aren't great. NYC's goals against record is good, though, and I think taking all these factors together, we have to acknowledge the good work Johnson is doing.

Finally, Johnson touches the ball a lot. He's averaging 29.08 passes per 90 (89th percentile) and his launch percentage on non-goal kicks is only 27.8%. For reference, Kahlina is at 33.42 passes/90 (95th percentile) and his launch percentage on non-goal kicks is 37.3% (43rd percentile). NYC will attempt to play out from the back, just like Charlotte.


I'm not sure this game goes much better for Charlotte than the LA one. Even missing their best CB and with the departure of Castellanos, this is still a good, talented team. Additionally, it's one coming off a really poor run of form, so I expect them to be highly motivated against us.

It's also important to note that NYC's last 3 games have all been road games. I'm sure they would have expected better of themselves in these games, but road games are tough (as we Charlotte fans are all too aware). Philadelphia is starting to pull away for the top spot in the East (they're now on 48 points), but a 6-point differential with a game in hand isn't insurmountable for the defending champs. I'm sure they're looking at this game as a way to jumpstart their rush to the top.

On the Charlotte side of things, I'm curious to see what this lineup will be. Whatever you think of Afful--and I haven't seen any update on his injury--his loss means an already thin squad (and backline, in particular) is further depleted. Yes, it means more playing time in the short term for Lindsey (which is a good thing) and Byrne should hopefully be available soon, but depth is a real problem for this team. I'm hoping for a backline of Mora-Sobociński-Walkes-Lindsey, but some of those guys already have a lot of minutes on their legs.

The midfield depth is also problematic. Bronico looks tired and could stand a break; I'm just not sure he gets one. I never want to "punt" on a game, but having Jones deputize for him this game wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. The chance of points in this game is low and I'd rather have a (somewhat) rested Bronico for home matches against Orlando and Toronto.

Elsewhere in the midfield, I'm not sure what you do. My guess is it will probably be McNeill (who could also use a break) and Bender. It's unfortunate that Alcívar has looked so uninspiring in his last few appearances, as having him take a start this game would be good for rotation. I still might advocate for that to happen, even if I think he's been poor the past few times he's seen the pitch, just so McNeill and/or Bender can get a break.

Up top, I expect Reyna-Świderski-Gaines. I'd love to see Andre get a start, but I don't think you can rest Świderski. Lattanzio has shown an unwillingness to start Shinyashiki with Karol, so it feels unlikely. I would not be happy to see a Ríos start, even if it meant a Shinyashiki start.

NYCFC isn't as daunting a challenge as LAFC, but they're still a definite one. I'd love for the boys to surprise us, but I foresee another bad defeat.

Prediction: NYCFC 3 - Charlotte 1

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