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Stop the Supply Line: Ingredients of the Match

May 24, 2024 - Major League Soccer (MLS)
Charlotte FC News Release

Charlotte FC hosts the Philadelphia Union in their final home match of the season.

Here are the three key factors for the match:

Improved Decision Making

Since his first day as Charlotte FC Head Coach, Dean Smith has emphasized improving his players' decision-making abilities. The team's progress in this area has been noticeable throughout the season, especially this month. However, their decision-making in the final attacking third still needs improvement.

"It's the hardest part of the game: creating and scoring goals," said Smith.

Quickly recognizing openings and deciding whether to pass or dribble will be crucial for enhancing Charlotte's offensive threat and capitalizing on Philadelphia's struggling defense. Then, once in good position from making the right decisions, it's all about testing the goalkeeper.

Test the Keeper

Facing the Philadelphia Union, exploiting the goalkeeper has rarely been an option since Andre Blake's arrival. The two-time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year has been one of the best in the league for nearly a decade. However, cracks are beginning to show for the first time, not just in Blake but in the Union's overall defensive solidity.

The Union, known for being a tough team to break down, have struggled defensively this season. Part of this struggle is due to Blake's regression. During their unbeaten streak, Charlotte has averaged only 2.5 shots on target per match.

To capitalize on the Union's defensive vulnerabilities, Charlotte must test the keeper frequently. You never know when a shot might go in, the keeper might make a mistake, or you might get a lucky bounce. As NHL legend Wayne Gretzky famously said, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."

Stop the Supply Line

Despite being 8th in the Eastern Conference, the Union has one of the league's most dangerous attacks, ranking 3rd in goals scored in the Eastern Conference this season. Smith highlighted left-back Kai Wagner as the "supply line."

"We have to try and stop the supply line there because they have players in the penalty box who can cause you problems," analyzed Smith.

Wagner is a threat in open play with his precise crossing and is responsible for most of the Union's set pieces. Philadelphia have scored an impressive 10 goals from set pieces this season. Preventing Wagner from finding the space or opportunities to deliver his signature crosses will be crucial in disrupting Philadelphia's chance creation.

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