Not With a Bang: NCFC Regular Season Review
I’ve absolutely fallen off covering both NCFC and the Courage this season — and for the most part, it’s been because it hasn’t been fun. Since I’m not getting paid, the fun is pretty much all there is, and when that’s gone there’s not much left.
I’m going to briefly review each team’s season, looking through my extremely optimistic predictions to see where I went wrong.
Let’s start with the men’s side.
Each team plays 28 games: 90%
I wasn’t sure how much COVID would continue to impact the season, but I was fairly confident at the time that each team would manage. This one was right!
NCFC earns more than 28 points: 85%
28 points still would have been last place, oddly enough, but NCFC failed to break that mark. Considering the strength of my prediction, I took it hard on the chin here.
NCFC earns more than 37 pts: 65%
37 points was the predicted points total needed for playoff contention. This was a little off; it actually needed to be 40. I think NCFC being so bad artificially inflated other points totals. Either way, nowhere close — especially bad considering I felt more confident than not they were making the playoffs.
NCFC is top of the table: 15%
NCFC wins the championship: 10%
At least 10% wasn’t that high.
Robert Kristo is the team’s leading scorer: 90%
Robert Kristo is league MVP: 10%
A three way tie at the top, so I’ll count that as correct. The MVP one was disappointing.
Nazmi Albadawi leads the team in assists: 85%
Albadawi leads the league in assists: 55%
I really though Naz had this season in him. Obviously we don’t see everything behind the scenes, and it’s brutal that his injury issues kept him from having the impact he wanted. We know Naz loves the club and I’m sure he didn’t want it to end like this.
In the end it was Jay Tee Kamara with 5 assists who led the team. Kamara was also probably the teams best player despite falling off slightly towards the end.
Any academy player earns 300 minutes: 65%
Any academy player earns 800 minutes: 15%
More than 5 academy players earn 300 minutes: 20%
Just 3 players broke 500, but all three of those also broke 800. In fact, Cole Frame played the 8th most minutes on the team, something I never would have expected. If anything good comes out of this it will be the growth of the young players.
What Was Good This Season
This section will unfortunately be pretty short but here are some things I’m thankful for.
- Nicholas Holliday — the US U17 national teamer had a very good season despite not getting a lot of help.
- Max Flick — Love his story and he was an relative stalwart on the back line. NCFC probably can’t keep him another season, so I hope he moves on to something else.
- The young players getting minutes.
- Robbie Kristo’s wondergoal. You know the one.
- Jay Tee Kamara — what a fun player to watch. Hopefully he earns some time with Louisville next season.
What Was Bad This Season
Top to bottom, this team made no sense and was a miserable viewing experience.
I don’t mind watching a bad team, I’ve done it plenty of times. I don’t mind players who struggle to do the things they’re being asked to do if it’s part of a learning experience. The commitment to youth was real this season and as a developmental program there is real value there if handled correctly.
What I cannot stand is the fact that the team was set up to provide little challenge for its opponents, while dramatically increasing the risk it faced. Coach Bradford said at the beginning he wanted to build a team that was exciting, high energy, and hard to play against. If that’s the metric he is being judged against then he absolutely failed at his job.
The team was not exciting in the slightest. Opponents set up camp in our defensive third time and time again, and even when NCFC had the ball they rarely took it outside that third. Even though NCFC had more possession across the season, it was predominantly close to their own goal. NCFC was outshot 452–278 and had an xGD of -23.35 — the next worst team had an xGd of just -9.04. In fact, the top team had an xGD of 14.48 — so the difference between the best team and second worst team in the league was the same difference between NCFC and mediocre.
What if the team had tried to do something a little more exciting? Maybe a launch and squish approach to try to force teams into the opposing third, even if it left space behind? It’s hard to imagine it could have been any worse. When Holliday had his amazing performance against Chattanooga, my wife commented that it was the worst game of soccer she had ever seen. NCFC almost got a point out of that one.
What is the point of a developmental approach if all your players are learning is how to lose? Nobody wants to sign a player whose only experience is sitting back and getting crushed. It’s not a translatable skill.
It’s hard to see where to go from here. With the struggles on the women’s side and the total failure of a season from NCFC, fan sentiment is the lowest it has been in a long time (maybe ever). There doesn’t seem to be any commitment to winning, to attractive soccer, and frankly even the commitment to youth falls a little flat when a player like Yekeson Subah gets all of 72 minutes before jumping ship to the Real Monarchs, where he plays more minutes at a higher level.