Voices: Kevin Egan

360 View: Are we overlooking Philadelphia? Untapped potential in Charlotte?

Kevin Egan - Matchday 3 column

Well, that was fun! Week one of MLS 360 is in the books, and I’m pumped and raring to go again.

For those of you asking “Who’s this clown?!”… my name is Kev and I’m your new host of MLS 360 on MLS Season Pass. I’m a 38-year-old soccer junkie who's been in love with this beautiful game of ours for as long as I can remember. I’d like to think I’ve got a decent grasp of this sport. Lots of you reading this can relate, right? Here’s the thing: No matter how much you know, or think you know, you’re always learning at a rapid rate when you watch along with former professionals. That’s most certainly the case for me, as I sit alongside Bradley Wright-Phillips, Kaylyn Kyle and Sacha Kljestan every Saturday.

Part of my new role is to ask the right questions, and to do that I need to know what makes our analysts tick. Take BWP for example, a two-time MLS Golden Boot winner with the New York Red Bulls – an instinctual predator who ranks sixth all-time in MLS scoring. Of course, I knew all of that before meeting him. What I didn’t know were some of the personality traits and characteristics that Bradley has in abundance. They’re qualities that helped create not only one of the best strikers to grace MLS, but also one of the best minds. That wisdom now sits to my left every Saturday, and his ability to critique and analyze his fellow species is outstanding.

By species, I mean striker. They’re a unique breed. Bradley’s dad, Ian Wright, is an Arsenal legend and one of the greatest forwards in Premier League history. Scoring goals, making calculated runs, and mastering the art of being in the right place at the right time is something BWP has been living, studying and devouring his entire life. That’s why, for example, when he proclaims that he sees big things from Charlotte FC’s Enzo Copetti this season, I take note, and I’ve got to dive in with curiosity.

Here are three questions and some thoughts from my MLS 360 notes ahead of Matchday 3 this weekend.

Should we be concerned about Inter Miami?
  • MATCH: Inter Miami vs. Orlando City SC
  • WHEN: Saturday, 4:30 pm ET
  • WATCH: Apple TV - Free; FOX/FOX Deportes

On paper, four points to open a new season from a 2-0 home win vs. Real Salt Lake and a 1-1 draw cross-country at the LA Galaxy would seem like an outstanding start. But the eye test would beg to differ, for all three of my MLS 360 analysts.

Yes, Tata Martino has the GOAT at his disposal, but he also has a team with many obvious holes. The Herons beat an RSL team that looked frightened by the occasion in the first half, and when they began to play in the second ‘45, Miami looked porous at the back. And their draw came thanks to some Lionel Messi-Jordi Alba magic, against an LA Galaxy team that’s in the process of being pieced back together. Kudos. Job done, for now.

On Saturday their biggest test of the season awaits. Orlando City are Sacha’s pick for the Supporters’ Shield for many reasons, and this weekend the Lions are out for revenge after last season’s feisty Leagues Cup battle. This is a top-tier opponent for Miami, and when we go on air for MLS 360 we’ll have a much better understanding of where this Inter Miami team is at. I can’t wait!

Have we been blinded by Philadelphia’s lack of transfer activity?
  • MATCH: Sporting Kansas City vs. Philadelphia Union
  • WHEN: Saturday, March 2 - 8:30 pm ET
  • WATCH: Apple TV - Free

Backstage last week at our Apple TV MLS studios, I was chatting with ‘Armchair Analyst’ Matt Doyle, who remarked that there’s something almost romantic about this current Philadelphia Union core roster giving it one final push on their quest for a first MLS Cup. I loved this perspective.

The Union’s sole trophy is the Supporters' Shield, which arrived on the banks of the Delaware River after a shortened season due to COVID-19 in 2020. The penalty shootout loss to LAFC in MLS Cup 2022 was not only heart-wrenching, but also encouraging. This club is emblematic of the city of Philadelphia. Blue-collar. Hard workers. Proud. Head coach Jim Curtin embraces this.

While the Union slipped from first in the Eastern Conference in 2022 to fourth in 2023, their opening performance last week led us to think they'll climb once more in 2024. My reason is simple: They know who they are, and they embrace every ounce of it. They produce young talents that know the Philly Union way, so we’re not surprised when Jack McGlynn plays like a veteran or Quinn Sullivan’s level on opening day screams future national team star.

I get it: Union fans may feel frustrated by two points dropped last week in their 2-2 draw vs. Chicago. But that telepathic nature amongst this group, and the free-flowing football we all saw, makes me believe the nay-sayers have been blinded by the lack of Philly-centric mentions on Tom Bogert’s Twitter feed.

Can Dean Smith unlock Enzo Copetti in Charlotte?
  • MATCH: Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. Charlotte FC
  • WHEN: Saturday, March 2 - 7:30 pm ET
  • WATCH: Apple TV - Free; TSN & RDS

I mentioned Charlotte’s hitman above, so let’s jump back in with the Copetti chatter.

At 28, this is a player you’d like to think is in his prime, a player Charlotte saw enough of to pay Racing Club a reported $6 million for after a 21-goal season in Argentina. Now, after scoring a measly six goals in 26 games (23 starts) last season, what’s next for Copetti and Charlotte? Well, big things, according to my man BWP. And I agree.

The key here will be the man management of Dean Smith. The former Aston Villa manager has a track record of success with lone strikers: Ollie Watkins, Lasse Vibe and Tammy Abraham to name a few. And Smith was quick to dismiss links of a Copetti departure, calling him “integral” to their plans.

Leading the line in a 4-3-3, with genuine width on the flanks, Copetti’s now being asked to stay more central, something that goes against what we saw last season. Will it take time? Maybe. Copetti didn’t take a single shot at home on Saturday and had the fewest touches of any player to play 90 minutes. He also let Kerwin Vargas take his side's penalty. A strange move for the main man, and the club's only DP.

With that said, BWP thinks that with Copetti's intelligent movement and poacher instincts, it’s only a matter of time before goals flow. And with that, Smith may unlock the most dangerous attacker in MLS that very few are talking about.