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Montreal, Charlotte, Portland — American Soccer Analysis

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While that may not look good, Vargas led Charlotte in progressive key passes and was second on the team in shots. His shots were best coming from the left shoulder of the box, scoring all of his goals from essentially the same spot. He did have a tendency to take bad shots from beyond the box but that could be fixed. He had little pro experience before coming to Charlotte, so he has plenty of room to grow as a player.

On the depth side, outside of the midfield Charlotte is paper thin or unproven at best. Since the depth chart above was created Guzman Corujo moved, leaving just a few center backs, mostly unproven. The attack has been mostly cleared out with 17 year old Brian Romero next man up at right wing. The team has to bring in significant numbers to have a chance at succeeding this season.

The midfield is strong on paper with 3 veteran players in Scott Arfield, Brecht Dejaegere, and Ashley Westwood. The downside of having 3 starting midfielders over 32 is that they may not be able to handle the full load of an MLS season. Brandt Bronico is a sturdy veteran backup and Ben Bender has shown flashes of ability. The midfield will need to carry the team.

The Outlook

Can you call it a rebuild if you never got built? Charlotte has quite a job ahead of them and it would be reasonable to expect a year of building a team that can compete. There’s a chance that Dean Smith can take the spare parts and back benchers on the Charlotte roster and turn them into a smoothly operating machine, but that seems like false hope.

The most likely outcome is that Charlotte misses the playoffs for a third time, but hopefully in a fashion that keeps Dean Smith in the job and building to 2025.

By Matt Barger

Portland enters the 2024 MLS season on the back of a busy offseason from a disappointed front office. Timbers General Manager Ned Grabavoy did not pull punches in his 2023 end-of-season address, calling their 2023 campaign ”an incredibly frustrating season on many levels” with a team effort that just “wasn’t good enough.” 

Oof.

After missing the playoffs for the second consecutive year, Grabavoy hard-reset the roster and sunsetted over $5 million of underperforming talent. The next three months saw sweeping changes, as the Timbers:

  • Appointed Phil Neville as the new manager,

  • Signed valuable defensive pieces to improve atrocious execution, and

  • Promised two club-record designated-player signings in attack.

Will Standout Defensive Signings Improve Defensive Execution?

First things first: Portland could have made the playoffs with a competent defense.The Timbers were the worst-executing MLS defense in 2023. Portland conceded a bottom-tier 58 goals from a middle-tier 44.4 xG, the worst defensive xG differential in MLS. 

This was especially costly at the final stretch of the season, when the Timbers backline conceded a mammoth twenty goals over the last nine games (seven more than expected), costing the team a crucial five points in its last three games. Goalkeeping was poor throughout the season, with the Timbers goalkeepers being second-worst in the league in goals allowed against expected.Coulda, woulda, shoulda. But two silver linings exist: 

First, A full-time manager will make a big difference: Portland’s defensive execution was bad before Gio Saverese’s exit, but only fell to worst-in-league in the eight games after the heralded Timbers manager was fired. Phil Neville will be a much-needed fresh start for the Timbers backline.





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North Carolina Courage’s Brianna Pinto embracing new role in 2024 – Equalizer Soccer

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Gotham FC's Delanie Sheehan battles for a ball with North Carolina Courage's Brianna Pinto


Photo Copyright Rob Kinnan for USA TODAY Sports

CARY, N.C. — When the North Carolina Courage lined up for their opening match of the 2024 National Women’s Soccer League season, an interesting name filled the central striker’s role at kickoff: Brianna Pinto.

The 23-year-old had previously been a midfielder while a member of the Courage, albeit a versatile player who had been used in both defensive and attacking roles. But with North Carolina’s leading scorer from 2023 Kerolin sidelined with a torn ACL for the time being, as well as head coach Sean Nahas having a surplus of midfielders and a track history of playing players in various roles on the field, Pinto got the call as the No. 9, a move that paid immediate dividends.

Pinto drew a penalty to open the scoring in the season opener, a 5-1 romp over the Houston Dash, and notched her second start of the season back at WakeMed Soccer Park on March 30, with her first goal of 2024 in a gritty 1-0 win over Gotham FC.

“I think just being in a new role is obviously a learning moment. But I love playing the No. 9 just because I’m close to goal and there’s nothing more special than getting to score,” Pinto told reporters in the postgame press conference after the win over Gotham.

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Star in the making – Equalizer Soccer

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Emeri Adames stands with her arms folded and a massive smile on her face. She is posing in front of gold drapery in the Reign's dark blue home kit with gold accents.


Photo Copyright Jane Gershovich for Seattle Reign FC

SEATTLE — As calendars turned to December, Emeri Adames was graduating high school and preparing for life playing college soccer at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The Dallas, Texas, native was not planning on going pro. She had committed to a Tarheels program that is consistently one of the best in the nation as one of the nation’s top recruits.

Seemingly out of nowhere, Seattle Reign came calling. Discussions began in late December and an invite to preseason soon followed. Adames still wasn’t set on going pro but, time training with the Reign changed everything.

“It was definitely a really hard decision. I have so much respect for UNC coaches, and I have such a good connection with them still, I talked to them. But it was just mainly this team,” Adames told The Equalizer.

It has been Adames’ goal ever since she was young to go pro but she didn’t think it would happen so soon.

“It wasn’t like I was just trying to go pro just to go pro,” Adames said. “I found my place and I found a great team that would support me and the staff that really wanted me to grow as a player and I saw their visions for me. And so I talked to my family and we had a lot of conversations and that’s what led me to this decision.”

The Reign were just as excited to sign Adames as she was to join the team. Speaking after Adames’ NWSL debut, in the regular season opener, head coach Laura Harvey admitted that “honestly, within two days [of preseason] I was like ‘we need to sign this kid, she is special.’”

Harvey was almost gleeful talking about Adames, forewarning media “You wait, this kid’s unbelievable.”

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What to keep and what to change from the SheBelieves Cup – Equalizer Soccer

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The USWNT celebrates winning the SheBelieves Cup


Photo Copyright The Columbus Dispatch

On Tuesday night, the United States won its seventh SheBelieves Cup in nine years. This victory was secured in thrilling fashion – a full-time draw led to penalty kicks and featured goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher not only saving shots but also burying one of her own. But, as the post-match excitement died down, fans and followers immediately honed in on the predictable follow-up question to an international tournament: what could this mean for the Olympics? 

In short, a lot! This tournament saw some predictably solid play from Olympic roster shoo-ins like Lindsay Horan, whose abilities to consistently generate plays, draw fouls, and score goals looked as reliable as ever. Mallory Swanson returned from injury to the international stage for the first time in a year and has never looked faster or more eager for a goal. And joining her up front were Jaedyn Shaw and Sophia Smith, who more than earned their keep with goals throughout the tournament. 

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