For the Stats: What We’ve Learned from the Start of Charlotte FC’s 2024 Season 

For the Stats

When Charlotte FC appointed Dean Smith as Head Coach, there were question marks over how his philosophy and style would translate to the unique challenges of MLS. While not all questions have been answered, there’s enough data through the first five matches to get a sense of where Smith wants to take this team.

Charlotte FC currently have a record of two wins, one draw, and two losses to start their 2024 campaign, enough to currently sit 7th in the Eastern Conference. However, straight results rarely tell the full story.

Let's focus on a few of the major statistics, clearing away the clutter of "paralysis by analysis" to see what we can learn about where this team is and where they're headed.

Defensive Data

Data analytics has rapidly transformed the soccer realm over the past few years, offering deeper insights into team and player performance. Although not definitive, these analytics contribute valuable perspectives to understanding a team's performance and potential.

One standout statistic is Charlotte's Goals Allowed (xGA), which gauges the quality of scoring opportunities CLTFC gives up to opposing teams. Currently, Charlotte ranks 2nd in the Eastern Conference with an xGA of 3.8 across five matches, indicating their defense has effectively thwarted high-quality chances.

To be more precise, Charlotte concedes an average of 0.76 xGA per match, limiting opponents' high-quality scoring opportunities. This defensive resilience corroborates the eye test, showcasing how organized and disciplined the team is under Smith.

Even other coaches within MLS have recognized that Charlotte is a tough side to break down. One of those was Toronto FC Head Coach John Herdman, who has revived that franchise following a tough few seasons.

“It was a tough tactical battle,” said Herdman following the match on March 9th. “Dean’s got them well organized. Yeah, they’re going to do well this season.”

Charlotte was unfortunate to have not gotten at least one point that game when they lost to a Goal of the Year contender scored by Lorenzo Insigne. Generally, it's taken exceptional goals or fortuitous circumstances to breach Charlotte's defense, achieving Smith’s goal of being a team that’s “tough to beat.”

Now, it’s a matter of instilling that same level of respect on the opposite side of the pitch.

Offensive Data

Charlotte currently sits around the middle of the pack in chance creation generating a total of 7.0 Expected Goals (xG). This is enough to rank a solid 7th in the Eastern Conference. Although their offensive output hasn't matched their defensive solidity, they have created enough scoring opportunities to average at least one goal per match.

Charlotte have underperformed their xG by two goals, scoring five goals out of a potential seven this season. Failing to convert opportunities from both open play and penalties has proven costly for The Crown in the early stages. Nonetheless, it's promising that Charlotte is creating these chances in the first place.

With the scoring opportunities Charlotte creates and defensive solidity they’ve shown, it bodes well for the overall picture of where the team currently stands through five matches and where it is headed.

Overall Picture

When you combine the two prior statistics you can discover what the team’s Expected Goal Difference (xGD) is. Generally, the teams with the best goal differential tend to sit higher up the table. The more goals you score and the less chances you concede leads to good things... makes sense, right?

In this metric, Charlotte is ranked 2nd in the Eastern Conference with an xGD of +3.0. This is a feat that’s even more impressive when considering the teams they are near, such as the Columbus Crew, FC Cincinnati, and DC United — recognized as some of the top teams in the East during the early stages of the season.

Consider the challenging opening schedule Charlotte had, including three straight away matches in a league where playing on the road is notoriously difficult and a home match against the defending champions, and the team appear to be in a good place.

While statistics are never the end-all be-all, they are generally accurate indicators of where a team stands and where it is going. Those early indicators for Charlotte point to more wins and points on the road ahead if they keep up the current trends.

If The Crown continue to be rock solid defensively and take better advantage of their scoring opportunities (potentially aided by the arrival of new Designated Player Leil Abada), then they can be a real threat in the Eastern Conference.

All data from FBRef.



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