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Charlotte FC's Top Contenders for MLS All-Star Selection

June 7, 2024 - Major League Soccer (MLS)
Charlotte FC News Release

MLS All-Star season is upon us.

A little over a week ago the ballots opened up for fans to vote who they think belongs on the All-Star team chosen to represent the league in a match against Liga MX's very own all-stars.

The All-Stars are selected from an even split of votes between fans, media, and current MLS players.

This year, Charlotte FC has some real contenders for making the All-Star team as they currently sit 5th in the Eastern Conference. The Crown also boasts one of the top defenses in the league as they sit tied for fourth in least number of goals conceded and tied first in total clean sheets with seven.

Here's a look at Charlotte FC's standout players who deserve a spot on the 2024 All-Star teams:

Ashley Westwood

In many ways, captain Ashley Westwood has become the face of Charlotte FC. Wearing the armband always comes with more pressure, but the Englishman embraced his role, team, and city. He's led not only led with his words but with his actions as well.

Ashley Westwood has unequivocally established himself as one of the league's top defensive midfielders this year, showing no signs of slowing down. Remarkably, he is one of the few outfield players to have played every single minute of the season, totaling 1,530 minutes to date (alongside Andrew Privett). During this period, Westwood has covered an impressive 125.1 miles, ranking him second in distance covered among all MLS players.

Not bad for a 34-year-old...

He's been a true workhorse for the club, excelling not only in endurance but also in possession. As the heartbeat of the midfield, his statistics speak for themselves: he ranks in the 95th percentile among MLS midfielders for total touches and successful passes, the 94th percentile for chances created, and the 97th percentile for accurate long balls. When it comes to distribution, he's up there with the likes Riqui Puig, Thiago Almada, and Carles Gil as having the 7th most progressive passes in the league.

Moreover, he's delivered key moments this season, including a "Goal of the Matchday" strike against the Columbus Crew and a decisive game-winning free-kick against the Chicago Fire.

These performances underscore why Westwood has all the qualities of an MLS All-Star.

Kristijan Kahlina

A fan favorite, Kahlina has been a cornerstone of the team since its inception. The Croation has been reliable between the two posts, but he's showing that even at 31 years old, players can continue improving.

Currently, he ranks 9th in MLS for save percentage at 73.1% and 6th in Goals Prevented with a rate of 3.6. With 52 saves, he's 9th in total saves and tied for first in clean sheets with seven. These stats highlight that when Kahlina is called upon, he has stepped up for his side.

But where he's truly shined has been in his proactive approach to preventing scoring opportunities.

Kahlina has been aggressive off his line, snuffing out threats before they become dangerous, evident in his impressive defensive numbers outside the penalty area. Averaging 1.76 defensive actions per 90 minutes, he ranks in the 90th percentile among goalkeepers in the top 14 leagues.

He also commands his penalty area effectively, ranking 3rd in MLS for crosses stopped. This all-around performance underscores his pivotal role as Charlotte's shot-stopper this season.

However, this defensive excellence isn't solely due to Kahlina; the players in front of him have been equally instrumental in the team's stellar defensive record this year.

Adilson Malanda & Andrew Privett

When examining the top defenses across MLS, center backs are typically seasoned veterans aged 26-32, as the position demands substantial experience. Yet, Charlotte FC's backline is anchored by 22-year-old Frenchman Adilson Malanda and 23-year-old Andrew Privett, a third-round college draft pick.

First paired midway through last season, Malanda and Privett have flourished under Coach Smith, developing both individually and as a duo. Their exceptional performances bolster their case for All-Star consideration.

Malanda, a standout candidate for MLS's 22 Under 22 list last year, continues to impress. At just 22, he has emerged as a backline leader, ranking in the 88.5th percentile for duels won and the 93.4th percentile for recoveries. He's also among the league's best center backs in possession, connecting the 3rd highest number of long balls and ranking in the upper third of nearly all passing metrics for his position.

"Everyone can see how you work hard on and off the pitch, and that can inspire"

Equally impressive, Privett has quickly adapted to the center-back role despite less than a year of experience in MLS. The Maryland native ranks in the top 10 for aerial challenges won and clearances and is in the 83.6th percentile for tackles made. His duel-winning rates are notable: 63.7% for ground duels and 65.4% for aerial duels. Offensively, he excels as well, ranking 9th in accurate long balls and remaining dispossession-free in 17 matches.

Together, Malanda and Privett are demonstrating that, despite their youth, can more than hang with the league's best defenders.

Jere Uronen and Nathan Byrne

Another duo worthy of recognition is the fullback pairing of Jere Uronen and Nathan Byrne. While their stats might not be the flashiest, they consistently deliver top-tier performances among fullbacks this season.

Both rank above average in most metrics and form one of the league's most reliable fullback tandems. Defensively, Uronen averages 1.6 interceptions per 90 minutes, placing him in the 86th percentile for fullbacks. Byrne excels in duels, winning 60.2% of his challenges, positioning him in the 83rd percentile, and he's in the 84th percentile for aerial duels.

Offensively, they also contribute significantly. Byrne's 36 accurate long balls place him in the top 11.5% among fullbacks. Uronen, despite limited minutes due to injury, boasts 410 successful passes, ranking him in the top 25%.

It's tough to find a more reliable fullback duo in the league than this European pairing.

This year, Charlotte has a stronger case than ever that they deserve some representation in the All-Star team.

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