Tresor Mbuyu: Charlotte’s Offensive Catalyst

Photo Credit: Charlotte Independence

You might not remember this, but 2022 isn’t Tresor Mbuyu’s first rodeo in League One. In 2019, Mbuyu spent 677 soul wrenching minutes playing for League One punching bag Orlando City B. Despite only tallying one goal in the 2019 season, a USL-C team liked what they saw and snatched him up on a free transfer. Mbuyu played 2 seasons in the USL-C as a rotation player for the Charlotte Independence before their self relegation to League One. Now, Tresor is back. He’s back to wreak havoc on the league to prove that you really can take both the guy out of Orlando City and Orlando City out of the guy. Or something like that. Tresor Mbuyu certainly looks like he’s got SOMETHING to prove this season, already earning Player of The Month in his first three games back in the league. Of course, this time around is a little different with players like Miguel Ibarra feeding him balls into the final third, but his progression as a player is evident. Now, leading the way for a dangerous Independence side, the player with USL Championship pedigree only looks like solidifying his spot towards the top of the golden boot race and as one of the most dangerous attackers in the league. With a big string of road games coming up, the Independence will have to be mentally, physically, and tactically strong to prove they belong at the top of the table. If anyone is going to lead them there, it’s probably going to be Tresor Mbuyu.

Taking one look at his radar chart, it’s obvious he has a very unique profile. Not a natural passing whiz by any means, Tresor prefers to receive the ball in advanced areas and carry it in towards the goal. He is INCREDIBLY skilled with the ball at his feet. He’s got a great touch, good close control, and he’s really good at changing speed with the ball at his feet. Ranked first for touches in the box and 2nd for progressive carries (Mentzingen being #1), Mbuyu clearly has one thing on his mind: getting the ball near the net and putting it in the back of it. You can see by his Instat heat map that he does a lot of his best work close to goal in the half spaces. It’s almost like there’s a funnel that sucks Mbuyu towards the goal every time he gets into the final third. Despite being a right footed player, he’s scored 3 goals with his left foot and only 1 with his right. His two footedness makes him a dangerous attacker in the box as he can either run to the endline for a cut back or cut inside onto his right foot. His ball striking technique is really good and can really get some power behind a shot or guide it nicely into a corner. It makes an already unpredictable player even more unpredictable. He’s quick, unpredictable, and is a good decision maker in the final third. He’s *WICKED SMAHT* and it makes him really hard to defend in those dark reds areas below.

credit: Instat

Mbuyu’s game is predicated on 1v1 situations and attacking open space behind defenders. He’s at his best when he gets the ball at his feet and attacks the space behind the fullbacks rather than looking to cross or carry it out wide. Whether it’s on or off the ball, Mbuyu is constantly looking for gaps that can help get him closer to the goal. His positioning off the ball is often inch perfect whether in defense or waiting to receive the ball and it really puts opponents on the back foot. You can see below his preference to either receive wide and cut inside when in settled possession or to make runs into the channels in transition. His tendency is to either shoot or put in a low cutback pass across the face of goal. Something odd to note about Mbuyu and the Independence is despite Mbuyu’s ability on the ball, he rarely wins fouls. In fact, the Independence as a whole are in last place in fouls won for this year. It’s a very odd statistic for a player so incessant on running at defenders.

Charlotte really like to build using as much width as possible to open up space for other to make runs into before narrowing in the final third to help win back possession and create dangerous chances. You can see the far side players drifting inside to take up positions within the width of the 18 yard box. It seems like they rarely have more than one person in the vertical areas outside the half spaces once the ball crosses the halfway line. This has multiple purposes, winning back possession more easily and making it harder for opposition to counter in dangerous areas, but I won’t go into detail on those today. All you need to know right now is that Mbuyu’s work on the ball and off ball movement either opens up tons of space for his teammates waiting in the box or he’s left too open to the other team’s peril. According to American Soccer Analysis’ Goals Added model, Tresor Mbuyu is the most effective dribbler in the entire league for the 2022 season so far (must have completed at least 3 90s), which broken down means it’s really silly not to pay the utmost attention to how you defend against him. Side Note: it will be interesting to see how he performs against Greenville this weekend with their tendency to pinch players on the ball with a full back and a winger from behind. It will surely be a huge test for him as a player and for Charlotte to find other avenues to get closer to goal (Tresor accounts for over half of Charlotte’s touches in the box per90). Isolating him in 2v1 situations and zoning him out of the box will be key to negating A LOT of Charlotte’s offensive production.

You can see Opposition half action maps from his two most recent games (Tucson and Tormenta) below. While he’s not an incredibly efficient player, it doesn’t seem like anyone is asking him to be either. His goal is to get towards the goal, unsettle defenses with his dribbling ability, and put dangerous balls into the penalty area or take shots on goal. Working from out to in, he is a key component for the Independence in the final third.

Being out of possession is no different for Mbuyu when it comes to his work rate and positioning. Despite Charlotte being the least intense/effective pressing side in League One, Mbuyu averages 2.3 recoveries in the opposition half per 90 and almost 3.5 interceptions per 90. He does have a bit of a tendency to lunge into challenges that have either kept him from winning the ball at times or gotten him in trouble with the refs. His intensity is still an asset though and it enables Charlotte to create all kinds of problems –whether through actual transitions or artificial ones created by Charlotte’s impeccable off ball movement.

Rocha’s presence behind Mbuyu enables him to push forward and force the ball towards the sideline. It creates that nice pressing trap along the sideline that enables Charlotte to burst forward into the final third.

Mbuyu is surely one of the most dangerous wingers/inside forwards in the league right now and as long as he’s succeeding, so will Charlotte. While that seems like a lot of pressure, there’s a whole host of all star characters backing him up to get him where he’s most dangerous. It also helps that Charlotte continues to bring in incredible players to hopefully help lighten the load. Illia Shevtsov is one such player who seems to have a very similar profile to Mbuyu. It’ll be interesting to see how this dynamic unfolds and will add some depth to an already dangerous squad. Despite the large cast of characters, this looks like it could be a season to remember for Tresor if he continues performing at his current rate. This guy has been a nightmare for opposing defenses and it will likely only continue.

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