USL Excerpt: How former MVP Solomon Asante can change the East’s balance of power

Quick
Hits
  • Former league MVP and Phoenix Rising star Solomon Asante made his debut for the Indy Eleven on Saturday
  • Asante isn’t totally match fit yet, but his ability is clear
  • The Ghanaian’s arrival in Indianapolis could change the balance of power in the USL Championship’s Eastern Conference

This piece is an excerpt from this Monday’s Weekend Recap.

Solomon Asante signed with the Indy Eleven in mid-April, bringing a resume along with him that contains two MVP awards and three all-league seasons.

At the time, the Eleven were sputtering. They had earned just five points in their opening five matches under new manager Mark Lowry. Since then, however, Indy have been on fire. They have four wins in their five post-Asante signing matches, albeit against weak competition in a stretch of mostly home games.

This weekend, Asante finally made his debut in the Circle City. Lowry made clear that the former Phoenix Rising attacker was only fit enough for a cameo, and, indeed, Asante played just 11 minutes. Still, there were hints of what’s to come. Wearing No. 14 and slotting into the left wing in a 4-2-3-1, Asante showed his usual bursts of speed in tracking back to solidify a 2-0 win for Indy over the New York Red Bulls II on Saturday. He only found a handful of offensive touches, but he was already trying to spark one-touch moves and was driving at opponents on the dribble. 

In other words, classic Asante appears to be alive and well, if a bit rusty. What does that mean for the Indy Eleven going forward?

Following Indy’s recent run of form, the team sits seventh in the USL’s Eastern Conference, holding the last playoff spot. On a points per game basis and by xG conceded, Asante’s new team is 5th in the East. Things fall apart on the offensive end, though, and that’s where the playmaker can make a difference. Indy sit second-to-last in xG in their conference, wedged between MLS affiliates in Atlanta and New York. Their hot-streak rode on high conversion rates from players like Stefano Pinho and gritty one-goal wins powered by goalkeeper Elliot Panicco. Altogether, Indy have a sub-50% chance of making the playoffs according to my projections

Asante’s integration into Indy’s lineup can rectify these issues and add an extra dimension to the Eleven attack. Take the Ghanaian’s track record for proof:

  • 2021: 89th percentile in xG, 93rd percentile in xA
  • 2020: 93rd percentile in xG, 99th percentile in xA
  • 2019: 92nd percentile in xG, 97th percentile in xA

This season, Lowry imported his typical diamond-shaped 4-4-2 system, utilizing a forward pair with one back-shoulder-running striker and a deeper creator. Asante could play that latter role, or he could slot in as the No. 10 spot or even one of the outside central midfield positions in the diamond. Players at those central midfield spots for Indy have tallied just 0.08 xG per 90 this year. Last season, Asante alone generated 0.41 xG per 90. It’s safe to say that the Ghanaian can solve some problems for his new team.

No matter where he slots in, Asante is an electric offensive player, one who can turn an attacking-challenged playoff fringe team into a contender.