Ingredients of the Match

Play Through the Defensive Midfielders | Ingredients of the Match


Charlotte FC return to Canada this weekend for their second of three consecutive away matches. After earning a draw in Vancouver, the team is preparing to take on Toronto FC.

Here are the three ingredients of the match:

Play Through the Defensive Midfielders

Following their match against the Vancouver Whitecaps, Head Coach Dean Smith attributed the team’s loss of control after a dominant first 30 minutes to neglecting Charlotte’s holding midfielders.

“I felt like we bypassed the sixes [defensive midfielders] a little bit on the ball,” said Smith in the post-match press conference. “That’s why I felt the last 10 minutes got away from us. I thought we were really on top of the game [in the first half] because we found the easy ball very quickly.”

We’ve seen through the first two matches that both Junior Urso and Ashley Westwood tend to be those holding midfielders. They constantly look to open themselves up to be passing options, and when they are fed the ball, goods things generally follow.

Charlotte performed best against the Whitecaps when they were consistent in quickly finding these two players to initiate their build up. Toronto set up tactically in a similar way to the Whitecaps, so playing through these midfielders and being quicker to find the simple option should also see the team reap benefits.

Defensive Gaps from Toronto Stars

At this point, it is common knowledge that Toronto boasts two of the biggest stars in MLS with former Serie A and Italian National Team wingers Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi. Both are obvious offensive threats that the team will need to game plan around, but these talents could be exposed on the defensive side.

Toronto Head Coach John Herdman sets up his team in a 3-5-2 shape with Bernardeschi playing more as a right wingback. With that comes more defensive responsibilities, which Charlotte can take advantage of. Insigne plays more as a second striker with less defensive responsibilities but must come back and help when needed.

Despite Toronto's clean sheet record this season, they've encountered mounting pressure in later stages of matches, partly due to Insigne and Bernardeschi neglecting defensive duties as games progress. Juggling offensive and defensive responsibilities diminishes their ability to fully commit defensively, presenting potential opportunities for Charlotte.

Solidifying Set Piece Defense

Charlotte continues to show that they are a tough team to break down in open play. The team has bought in and quickly learned Smith’s defensive structures and pressing triggers – evident in the goal they scored against the Whitecaps.

The Whitecaps' opportunities largely arose from set pieces, with their equalizing goal resulting from a poorly defended set piece. Although Toronto has yet to exceed one expected goal (xG) through their first two matches this season, they possess two star players capable of delivering precise service from dead ball situations. The two goals Charlotte conceded the last time they were at BMO Stadium were off corner kicks on a windy day, one of which was a superb Olimpico goal by Bernardeschi.

If the team can solidify their set piece defense, it will set them up for a potential clean sheet. This guarantees a positive result, at minimum securing another valuable point away from home... or potentially taking home all three points.