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The RBNY Preview

Well, a lot has changed between now and when Charlotte faced RBNY in the cup a few weeks ago. I've touched on it briefly before, but my thoughts on the MAR situation are simple: we will never know the whole story, it wasn't a good fit, I wish him the best, and I will continue to support the team.


The new manager, Christian Lattanzio, is an intriguing candidate. This short profile by Caleb Adams gives a good overview of his coaching history. His work with young players is especially promising, as Charlotte has quite a few of those. There are a lot of good pieces of information to be found out about him, aside from the Adams' piece, but the one that most interested me was this:

Two aspects of this tweet jump out to me:

  1. The chances of my beloved 4-2-3-1 seem to be nonexistent, at least from a starting formation perspective. In modern football, formations are often changed in and out of possession, so there is a chance that he could have them play in a role similar to a 4-2-3-1, but it sounds like the 4-3-3 is here to stay. That doesn't bother me too much, as a 4-3-3 is still better than the diamond, but I was curious if he'd move into a different formation. I still think our current squad supports a 4-2-3-1 very well, personnel-wise. In general, though, I'm more curious to know how his usage of the 4-3-3 will differ from MAR's. As StillnessSpeed documented, MAR allowed a lot of space in wide areas and I'm curious if that will continue with Lattanzio or if he will have a different defensive philosophy. There has been a lot of talk about whether Fuchs can handle the fullback position at his age or if he gets beat too often by MLS wingers. I wonder if a different emphasis on defensive tactics would change this.

  2. The bit from Capello about Lattanzio finding his own philosophy is interesting. There's been a lot of talk about his tutelage under Viera and in the Manchester City setup, so the assumption is that we can use their models as a predictor of what he will do. There's a lot to be said about the philosophy of Man City (or, really, Pep), so this isn't necessarily a bad thing, but you obviously want a coach who is a bit flexible. Hopefully, Capello's advice leads to that.

Another large point of discussion this week has been about how important this game is.

I'm very much in the minority opinion with this game. While I would love for the "new manager bump" to be real and help us--and it very well might--RBNY is good. A different team at home and I may expect a different result, but, for me, this game is more important in seeing how Lattanzio is going to manage this team and what structural/tactical changes take place. Add in the fact that important players are coming back from international duty and won't be available, and I become even less optimistic. I am also an avowed pessimist in sports, so take my opinion as such.


Charlotte is in a tough spot because we haven't been able to take points away from home, which leads to this idea of most, or every, home game being a "must-win." Winning every home game, or even winning/drawing every home game, isn't feasible. If this team wants to make the playoffs, yes, we have to continue to produce good results at home, but we also have to start taking points on the road.

 

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

53.4%

11.86

4.36

13 (15.0)

18 (19.4)

16 (8th in the East)

6.51 (6.80)

RBNY

44.9%

14.50

5.00

24 (24.5)

15 (17.8)

23 (4th in the East)

6.70 (6.85)

Charlotte is facing yet another team who is happy to give up possession. Even without possession, RBNY is still getting a lot of shots off per game and a lot of those are on target. They're 4th in the league in both of these categories and tied for 6th in the league for total goals scored. Yeah, they can put it in the back of the net.


For the season, there has rightfully been a lot of angst amongst the fans about our insipid possession. This is the first area of Lattanzio's coaching that I'll be looking at. I'm curious to see if he can add a bit of cutting edge to the team.


Mint City Analytics had a really good breakdown recently of issues with the club. The biggest takeaway for me from this piece was the lack of SCAs.


The whole piece is well worth a read.

 
RBNY vs. Chicago, 5/18, via MLS
RBNY vs. Chicago, 5/18, via MLS

RBNY has played in both a back 3 and a back 4, though they prefer the back 3. They've played with a back 3 ten times compared to four times with the back 4. They have a record of 4-5-1 with a back 3 and 2-0-2 with a back 4. Their most used formation on the year so far has been a 3-4-2-1, which they've used 7 times. MLS has them using a 3-4-1-2 once and a 3-5-2 twice. When they play with a back 4, they are using a 4-4-2 (two games) or a 4-2-3-1 (two games). Interestingly, they've won both games in a 4-4-2 and lost both games in a 4-2-3-1.


There doesn't appear to be a hard and fast rule about when they'll go back 3 or back 4, although 3 out of the 4 times they've used a back 4 it has been when an opponent was in a back 4. Chances are it'll be a back 3 from them on Saturday.


It's also important to remember that RBNY is literally the youngest team in the MLS. Most of their lineup is populated by players in the 21-25 age bracket.

RBNY vs. Miami, 5/22, via MLS
RBNY vs. Miami, 5/22, via MLS

Injury/Suspensions

MLS has 6 players listed as "out" for RBNY: center halves Andrés Reyes (foot) and Lucas Monzón (hamstring), midfielder Wikelman Carmona (foot), and forwards Ashley Fletcher, Serge Ngoma (hamstring), and Cameron Harper (knee). Trasnfermarkt has Reyes and Monón also listed as out, as well as Tom Edwards (RB) listed as out with visa issues, but that is inaccurate. He has been playing regularly for them since March.


Attack

RBNY have 8 players listed as a forward on their website: Zach Ryan, Fletcher, Cameron Harper, Ngoma, Omar Sowe, Patryk Klimala, and Tom Barlow.


Fletcher and Ngoma are hurt, although Ngoma hasn't really played this year when he was healthy. Fletcher had made 3 starts on the season and 6 total appearances, but he hasn't played since the beginning of May. Neither has scored a goal this year or had an assist.

Ryan has only 4 appearances for 27 minutes with no goals or assists, while La Cava and Sowe have yet to make an appearance for the team. Sow got into one game last year but has never scored.


Harper is listed as a forward on RB's site, but as a "DF, FW" on FBref. He's a young player at only 20. He got into 7 games last year for RBNY for a total of 94 minutes but failed to score or have an assist. This year, he's started one game and gotten into 3 total games. In his 156 minutes this year, he has scored a goal and has an assist.


Tom Barlow has been a backup for RBNY his entire career. He's gotten into 14 games this year but has only started 5 of them. He has 2 goals on the year. In his career, he has 70 appearances, but only 27 starts. He's only scored 9 career goals with his career-high being 3 in both 2019 and 2020.

Klimala is the real star of the frontline. The 23-year-old Young Designated Player is in his second year with New York, having joined from Celtic in the Scottish Premiership. He played in 30 total games last year for RBNY, making 26 starts. He scored 8 goals and had 6 assists. For a 22-year-old, new to the league, it was a very respectable return. This year, he's on a similar trajectory, having scored 4 with 3 assists. He's bang on his 0.3 goals/game that he had last year. He has underperformed his xG over these past two years, as it was 13.7 last year and is 5.2 this year. He may be a bit unlucky with his goal numbers, which could indicate he's due for more goals, or he might simply need to improve his finishing. Being such a young striker, it's hard to tell at this point. He was impressive in the Cup game and gave our backline all sorts of issues. He scored and assisted in that game. While he did play the majority of the cup game against Charlotte, he's only averaging 60 minutes per game in the league.

I think his heatmaps are also really interesting. There is a little bit of a right-hand bias that can be seen in 2021, however, it's become much more pronounced this year. With that said, he's drifting everywhere. This year he's dropping into that space near the right-wing often before moving higher up the pitch. Mora and whatever CB starts alongside him will have to be careful. I'm a big fan of Makoun, however, Klimala bodied him in the cup game. If he starts, he's going to need to be a lot better.


Midfield

RBNY have 11 players listed as a midfielder on their website: Jesús Castellano, Daniel Edelman, Bento Estrela, Luquinhas, Carmona, Caden Clark, Dru Yearwood, Lewis Morgan, Omir Fernandez, Franuel Amaya, and Cristian Cásseres, Jr.


Estrela and Castellano haven't gotten into any games in their careers yet, but they are 16 and 18, respectively, so that's not a huge surprise. Edelman has gotten into 3 games this year but has only 37 total minutes. Carmona is injured and hasn't played all year, although he did get into 25 games (15 starts) last year. Clark has gotten into 5 games this year for a total of 118 minutes. He has an assist on the season. Last year he played in 24 games (17 starts) and had 4 goals and 3 assists. He started his career in 2020 when he got into 7 games (3 starts) and had 2 goals.


The rest of the midfielders have all played a lot. Luquinhas is their only designated player and has been coming on recently. He has 4 goals and 2 assists on the year, but all of his goals have come in the past month. He was really good versus Charlotte in the cup game as well (although I got the feeling that he's a player who goes down very easily with contact). He will mostly take up positions behind the striker in RBNY's formation and is incredibly skillful on the ball. Whoever our holding midfielder is will need to be aware of him. Bronico struggled against him in the cup game, I thought (although he did pick up an early yellow, so I don't know how much that impacted his aggressiveness when dealing with Luquinhas).


Morgan is in his first season with RBNY after spending the last two seasons with Miami. Deployed primarily on the wing, however, he can play a bit further up as well. He's having his best season in terms of goal-scoring since his days with St. Mirren in the Scottish second division. At 6 goals already, he's tripled his output from last year and has one more than his career MLS high of 5. He's also chipped in an assist on the year. He has a history of providing assists, too, having 5 in his first year with Miami along with 3 other seasons of at least 5.


The last four midfielders--Amaya, Fernandez, Yearwood, and Cássares all play a lot. Each player has appeared in at least 11 games, with Amaya, Fernandez, and Yearwood appearing in at least 13. Yearwood has appeared in each MLS game so far, although he does only have 9 starts. Fernandez has also appeared in all 14 games, having started 12 of them.


Fernandez is in his 4th season with RBNY and is off to a strong start. He's already at 2 goals and 3 assists on the year. The assist total is one more than he had for his career entering the season. He scored 3 goals in 22 appearances (8 starts) last year, so his goal output is also on a good pace. At only 23, we're seeing a player breaking into a side for real.


Cássares is coming off a strong season last year, in which he made 27 appearances (24 starts) and scored 6 goals while chipping in 3 assists. He way outperformed his xG of 3.3 last year, so that total may be a bit of a fluke. Coming into last year, he only had 5 goals for his career in the MLS. He has one so far this year.

Amaya percentiles via FBref
Amaya percentiles over the past 365 days, via FBref

Amaya is yet another young midfielder for them. At 21, he's already an MLS stalwart. He came to RBNY from Cincinnati. He spent two years with Cincinnati, where he made 40 appearances (36 starts) during his age 18 and 19 seasons (!!!!). With RBNY he's made 35 appearances (23 starts) over the past two seasons. He's not a goalscorer, as he only has 2 career goals. He came into the season with 1 assist for his career and already has 2 on the season. Where Amaya shines is in his buildup play and defensive ability. While he may not get the goals or the assists, as his percentiles show, he is an integral part of them.


Finally, Yearwood is the last of the midfielders. Like Amaya, he's not a goalscorer or assists maker, having only 1 career goal and assist in the MLS (over 3 seasons). However, that's not his role in the squad. He plays in order to bring defensive stability to the team. He's excellent at pressuring opponents, as he's in the 99th percentile for successful pressures. He does his work up the pitch too, as he is in the 97th percentile for middle 3rd pressures and the 87th percentile for attacking 3rd pressures. He's in the 90th percentile for tackles won, as well. He still has a lot of things to work on in his game, especially his passing, as he's not really involved in that area. He's only in the 2nd percentile for passes attempted and the 37th percentile for through balls. His percentages--80.5% on short passing, 84.0% on medium passing, and 54.5% on long passing--show a player who Charlotte should not have to worry about making a "killer pass" when he's on the ball.


Defense

RBNY's site lists 9 defenders. The centerbacks include Aaron Long, Sean Nealis, Dylan Nealis, Reyes, Monzón, and Matthew Nocita. Thomas Edwards, Jason Pendant, and John Tolkin are all listed as fullbacks. Like a lot of teams that switch between a back 3 and a back 4, some of these player designations are fluid.


Reyes and Monzón, who are both injured, are also both U22 Initiative Players. Monzón only made 1 appearance for 22 minutes last year. Reyes had 19 appearances (17 starts) last year with 2 goals and an assist. Neither Reyes nor Monzón has played yet this year. Nocita was their most recent draft pick and has yet to play for the team. Pendant has gotten into 4 games this year, but only for 66 minutes. He only made 2 appearances for 11 minutes last year, too. In 2020 he had 20 appearances (17 starts), so he's having trouble earning time. At 25, he's no longer a young player (especially considering the other players' ages on this squad).


Long has been working his way back into form from an injury he suffered last year. He only made 5 starts last year before the injury. So far this year, he has made 13 starts and has 2 goals. When in a back 3, Long is deployed as the LCB. Long is a good player, though probably not an elite one. He's good at pressuring the opponent (96th percentile for successful pressure percentage), but he's not great at tackling (64th percentile for tackles won). He is good at blocking passes (92nd percentile) and at not getting dribbled past (99th percentile).


The Nealis brothers--Sean, 25, and Dylan, 23--have played a lot. Sean has spent his entire career with RBNY and broke into the team last year, starting 28 games (in his previous two seasons he had 14 total appearances and 8 starts). Dylan has bounced around, starting his career in Miami, before moving onto Nashville last year, and RBNY this year. Dylan may have found a home. He did make 19 appearances (10 starts) for Miami in 2020, but he only had 4 appearances (2 starts) last year for Nashville. He's already at 677 minutes for this season, which puts him on pace to shatter his high with Miami of 1,103 minutes. Sean is a true centerback, while Dylan has been played as a wingback or fullback in RB's system. In a back 3, Sean mans the center of the backline. Dylan, meanwhile, has played on both sides of the pitch as a fullback/wingback.


Unsurprisingly, for a centerback playing fullback, Dylan's percentiles are off the charts (90+ percentile in many categories including tackles won, tackled, tackled, pressures, tackles+interceptions). Dylan doesn't add much with his passing, although he is good at doing it while under pressure (79th percentile). Sean is very similar to Long in that he's good at pressuring the opponent (93rd percentile in successful pressures), but not necessarily tackling them (39th percentile in tackles won). He does excel at sweeping up things in the back, as he's in the 96th percentile for clearances.


Edwards and Tolkin round out the defenders. In a back 3, Edwards will play as the RCB, while in a back 4 he will play as a RB. Tolkin has been playing as a left-sided wingback. Edwards is in his 2nd season with RBNY, having joined RBNY from Fleetwood Town in the English third division. He made 27 appearances (25 starts) for RBNY last year, getting 2 assists in the process. He's yet to get an assist this year. Tolkien is young at 19 but is getting a lot of game-time. He made 22 starts (28 appearances) for RBNY last year and already has 12 starts this year. He's yet to provide a goal or assist this year but had one of each last year. Tolkin is pretty dangerous with his long passing as he's in the 80th percentile for long passes completed. He's averaging just under 6 completed long passes per game.


Goalkeeper

RBNY has 3 listed goalkeepers: Ryan Meara, Anthony Marcucci, and Carlos Coronel. Marcucci has yet to make an appearance on the senior team and Meara is their backup keeper. Meara does have one start this year in MLS, against Miami, as RBNY was saving Coronel for the cup game against Charlotte.


The 31-year-old Meara has never been a consistent starter in his career. He's only made double-digit appearances 3 times in his career: 18 apps in 2012 with RBNY, 21 apps in 2016 with RBNY II in the USL, and 13 apps in 2020 with RBNY. He's a good backup, as he has a career 72.8% save percentage and had a +0.8 PSxG+/- last year.


Coronel (25) is Red Bull through and through, having played with RB Salzburg from 2019-21 and then the last two years with RBNY. Maybe RB Leipzig is next for him. He's only really gotten a lot of playtime with RBNY, making 34 starts last year. Before then his career-high was 8 for USL Championship side Bethlehem. He had a 73.9 save percentage and a +4.2 PSxG+/- last year, so he was good. His save percentage is down to 66.7% this year and his PSxG+/- is at -0.4 in his 13 starts this year, which may indicate regression or a slow start. I'm not completely sure since, overall, he has so little playing time in his career. His GA90 looks good still at 1.00, however, that could just mean his defense has been good in front of him.


Conclusion

I'm really excited about this game. RBNY is a fun, young team and I'm hoping that the introduction of Lattanzio provides Charlotte with some attacking verve. This might be a really good game to see how Lattanzio will want his teams to attack since RBNY will cede possession. I'm not confident we are going to get points out of this game, but I am hoping we do.


I'm not going to begin to speculate on what the lineup might be because we know so little about Lattanzio's style. My guess is that most of the players who have been getting time and starting will do so on Saturday as well if for no other reason than Lattanzio doesn't want to alienate them. With that said, I do hope we see some experimentation with the lineup as time goes on. I still believe we need to see more playing time for players like Ruiz, Jones, and Gaines in order to assess their true level. There was hope preseason about Ortiz, so if Lattanzio can make that hope turn into on-field results, that would be great. I'd feel a little better about this game if we had Jóźwiak and Świderski available, but alas.


Ríos has been playing ok and Shinyashiki has been good, so there is still hope we can get things going in attack. I just don't know if we have enough to stop RBNY going forward. Additionally, we didn't handle RB's pressure very well during the cup game. Either we need to go long more often or our passing from the backline and midfield is going to need to be a lot better and crisper. I have serious reservations that our backline is capable of passing well, especially under pressure.


As always when I predict a defeat, here's to hoping I'm wrong!


Prediction: Charlotte 1 - RBNY 3




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