Protect Tired Legs
MLS is one of the most difficult leagues in the world to get a result on the road. Since 2015, teams have only won 25% of the time on the road in MLS, versus 31% in the big five European leagues and 29% in other North/South American leagues (per AmericanSoccerAnalysis.com).
Compound that statistic with fixture congestion in May and cross-country travel, and this trip to the West Coast becomes very challenging on paper. Charlotte FC flew to Birmingham, Alabama for a Wednesday night Open Cup game and now must cross three time zones, whereas the LA Galaxy stayed in Los Angeles for the Open Cup a day earlier and now remain at home.
Lattanzio will not accept this context as excuses for his side on Saturday, nor should he. However, this background might change the way he approaches the game tactically.
CLTFC do not want to get into a track meet. An open, end-to-end game would punish them on weary legs more than it would the Galaxy. Scoring early and then protecting the points they have would be a much smarter and more efficient way to bring home a result from LA, and that will likely be the mindset the coaching staff will approach the game with.
Test the Goalkeeper
Soccer is a simple game. In order to score, you have to take shots, and you have to put those shots on target. The way a team accomplishes that is where the wide range of tactics comes into play, but ultimately, you have to shoot to score.
Currently, Charlotte FC are 23rd in the league in total shots and 24th in shots on target, per FBref.com. This likely suggests that Head Coach Christian Lattanzio values high percentage chances over wild shots from distance, though, as the Club is 8th in goals per shot and 12th in total goals.
Still, the point stands. Just look at Hany Mukhtar’s first goal against CLTFC last Saturday, where his hopeful off-target volley from more than 30 yards out took a fortunate deflection off Bill Tuiloma and into the back of the net. Or, look at two of the goals D.C. United scored against the Galaxy last time out; LA goalkeeper Jonathan Bond let in two soft goals, becoming the first player this season to commit two individual errors leading to a goal in a single match.
More shots certainly do not always mean more production. The LA Galaxy lead the league in shots but are mired second-to-last in total goals and dead last in the full league table.
However, facing a goalkeeper who is prone to errors and a team who have conceded the 3rd-most goals in MLS, putting multiple shots on target will give CLTFC a higher chance of finally catching that elusive break on the offensive end.
Continue Justin’s Streak
Since arriving in Charlotte, winger Justin Meram has been consistently productive for Lattanzio’s side. In his first four starts in the league, he has scored or assisted on a goal in each game. He is the first player to do so in Club history.
Even in Wednesday night’s Open Cup loss, Meram provided the biggest spark of the substitutes. He was active on the ball while 10-man CLTFC looked for an equalizer and got on the end of the biggest chance of the night. His shot was well-blocked by Birmingham, but the danger he brought off the bench was clear.
Though CLTFC is starting to get healthier at the winger position – Kerwin Vargas started on Wednesday and Kamil Jozwiak has been upgraded to questionable for this weekend – Meram will be a key piece of the attacking plan. Getting the former Iraqi international on the ball in dangerous areas should be a priority.
If Meram can stretch his league goal contribution streak to five games (and better yet, do so early in the match), the Crown would be in a good position to protect the result and bring points home from the West Coast.
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