By Mike Rice.
Enzo Copetti – Charlotte FC
Charlotte decided to add to their front line this off-season bringing Enzo Copetti in from Racing Club in Argentina to partner last season’s key player, Karol Swiderski.
Swiderski moved to a slightly deeper role towards the end of the season under Christain Lattanzio and will now have a focal point striker ahead of him.
Copetti, 27, scored 11 times in 25 league games for Racing last season in his best-ever return as a professional. He has managed just 37 goals in 150 games since making his debut in 2017 for Atlético de Rafaela. He scored 6 in 54 for his first side before moving to Racing Club where he managed 31 in 96, assisting eight as well.
So, Copetti doesn’t have a history of being a prolific goal scorer, then why could he be a success in MLS?
Copetti has played across multiple positions throughout his career before cementing himself as a centre forward. According to Transfermarkt he has played just 84 times as a centre forward and scored 31 goals, that’s a goal every 2.7 games.
Across 34 MLS games, if he continued that streak, he would score just over 12 goals, a decent return considering Swiderski was their top scorer with 10 in 2022.
What stood out to Charlotte FC was Copetti’s work off the ball. He will be a hard worker, pressing from the front as well as being a focal point in the attack. He gives Swiderski the opportunity to find pockets of space in dangerous areas while occupying centre-backs.
While not overly tall he is still a danger in the air as he has shown in pre-season, getting on the end of an Ashley Westwood free kick.
Enzo Copetti volvió a convertir para Charlotte FC en un amistoso. — La MLS comenzará el fin de semana que viene. Llega óptimo. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/9xTtyenaIG
— Lisandro Santangelo (@lichasantangelo) February 19, 2023
His abilities as an all-round striker make him a real threat to MLS defenders who can’t pigeonhole him into being a specific type of opponent. He is strong in transition with his persistent running while also showing great movement in the box during build-up play. He can get in behind defences as well as hurry them into mistakes when trying to play out from the back.
While this all-round play will be useful, he will still be judged on goals and last season was the first time he had scored double digits in his career. Lattanzio will need to get him settled and confident quickly, which seems to be the case from preseason at least.
Charlotte kicks off their season at home to New England Revolution and Copetti will have seasoned centre-back Dave Romney to deal with, as well as one of the league’s best goalkeepers in Djordje Petrovic.
With a decent expansion season completed, they move into 2023 with a better idea of who they are and what they want to do, which could well see them get the best out of Copetti.
Dante Vanzeir – Red Bull New York
Life for centre forwards on the red side of New York has not been plain sailing. It’s been five seasons since a centre forward has broken double digits for Red Bull New York.
2022 Patrik Klimala – 5 goals
2021 Patrik Klimala – 8 goals
2020 Brian White – 5 goals
2019 Brian White – 9 goals
2018 Bradley Wright-Philips – 20 goals
Is it the system? Is it the players? New York have moved on from former Designated Player Patrik Klimala, signalling their belief, like most onlookers, that Klimala wasn’t the player they hoped he would be when they brought him in.
Their rapid, transitional play has brought success for those playing off the striker though. Lewis Morgan scored 14 goals in his first season last year which showed their ability to get players amongst the goals.
Vanzeir comes into MLS having been in immense goal-scoring form in Belgium. He had scored 10 goals in 20 games in the Jupiler Pro League for Union SG after a 21/22 season where he managed 13 goals and 10 assists in 29 games. He leaves the Belgian side after 91 games scoring 48 goals and making 21 assists – 69 goal-scoring contributions in 91 games.
He brings bags of pace and a real eye for goal — able to play in transition and is quick and clever to break as soon as possession is won. He can finish with both feet while also bringing players into the game and assisting which is key to the role he will fill in New York.
By pressing high as well as making intelligent runs immediately when possession is won should give him the chance to get register well in MLS, especially after doing so well in Belgium. New York will hope they have finally hit on a DP centre forward after years of searching since BWP moved on.
Georgios Giakoumakis – Atlanta United
While a VVV-Venlo in 2020/21 Giakoumakis topped the Eredivisie goal-scoring charts with 26 goals in 30 games. An incredible total and interestingly his side finished 17th that season and they were relegated.
Giakoumakis outscored forwards across the league and earnt a move to Celtic in Scotland where he has failed to truly settle. He registered just 861 minutes in his first league season though did play 686 minutes before moving to Atlanta in the mid-season in Scotland.
He arrives now as Josef Martinez’s replacement. It has been a telenovela of a final season and departure for the Venezuelan striker who moved to conference rivals Inter Miami.
Giakoumakis will be the number nine, working in and around the 18-yard box, looking to find space for shooting opportunities. He doesn’t need many touches and won’t go drifting around the pitch to slowly build up play. He is the player the likes of Thiago Almada will have to find in the box.
With clever movements and the ability to work shooting opportunities from very little, gives Atlanta a new centre forward who is goal hungry and aggressive like Josef Martinez was in some ways during his peak years.
Giakoumakis may not have been getting the same minutes in Celtic as he was at VVV-Venlo but that didn’t stop him from scoring, managing 26 goals across one and a half seasons with the club.
Should Almada and his teammates be able to provide the service, Giakoumakis will surely provide the goals which will see him register well in his debut season in MLS. There may still be some questions about them defensively, but Atlanta look to have a chance to be a real danger in opposing final thirds in 2023.
João Klauss – St Louis City SC
A new striker in a new team to MLS. The expansion side joining MLS in 2023 had a year in MLS Next Pro while creating their first team to be ready for 2023.
Players have had some time to get to know one another while making sporadic appearances for their second team. Klauss played four times for St Louis City SC 2 in MLS Next Pro and scored four while also assisting three goals.
For St Louis City there are a lot of questions going into the season like with all expansion sides.
Klauss is a tall, traditional number nine who will operate in central areas and be the focal point in the box. He will rely on quality delivery from the flanks as well as putting in work to get on the end of through balls, though his pace isn’t a particular strength.
The German striker is one of a number of players from the Bundesliga to make their way to St Louis with the relationship sporting director Lutz Pfannenstiel has with the league and its clubs. This will at least give them a base of a relationship, coming in with similar philosophies for how to play and to a standard they each expect.
While being signed from German side Hoffenheim, he has spent most of his recent seasons in Belgium on loan. He only played in 13 games for Hoffenheim before being moved on to Standard Liege in Belgium on loan for the 2020/21 season and some of 2021/22 along with a short period with Sint-Truidense leading into pre-season with St Louis.
Klauss really broke out back in 2018 with HJK Helsinki where he scored 21 goals in 33 games for the Finnish side. After leaving Finland he has only managed one season with double-digit goals, 2019/20 with LASK of Austria, where he scored 12 in 28 games.
Since then, he has struggled to register goals or assists with only his four games in MLS Next Pro really standing out on the stat sheet. His lack of goals could well be an issue for a striker not in the greatest form hunting for rhythm amongst a brand-new team needing time to acclimatise to the league as well as each other.
Which striker will score more?
With how Atlanta play and how Giakoumakis fights for his goals, he could well be the highest scorer of these new strikers come the end of the season. Copetti and Vazeir are interesting options who could do well, while not too much should be expected from St Louis City SC and Klauss in year one.