Debinha 2020 – scout report
Since moving to Cary, North Carolina in 2017, the North Carolina Courage have more or less dominated the NWSL. Also entering the NWSL in 2017, Debinha immediately began to leave an imprint on the entire league. Through analysis, we will see that her fearless attacking dribbles, ability to appear with impact anywhere on the pitch, and ability to improve her teammates attacking situation leaves no doubt that she is a crucial piece in North Carolina’s attacking tactics.
This scout report will look into exactly Debinha has become debatably one of the most important players in the league.
Off the ball movements
Through tactical analysis, we see that a major facet of Debinha’s play-style lies in her eagerness to roam the pitch and appear in space during attacking moments. This stems from the fact that she is comfortable in dealing with pressure from multiple directions (i.e. pressure from the front, back or side). She is also technically adept with both feet and therefore can feel comfortable receiving the ball and playing on both flanks and halfspaces.
This ability to appear effectively anywhere on the pitch allows Debinha to appear at the point of attack and aid in said attack through dribbling, passing or shooting. Below we can see North Carolina’s average position chart for their group games of the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup. If we look for the #10 we see an interesting trend.
In each game, Debinha’s position averages out to be almost directly middle in the central channel of the pitch. Additionally, we see that she remains just a bit deeper than the Courage’s most forward attacking players. This position is not due to Debinha remaining stationary in the middle of the pitch. Below we can see her career territorial coverage.
We can infer from the graph above that Debinha does not favour one particular side of the pitch over the other. We can also infer that because of her tendency to roam to both sides of the pitch, her average position will appear to be the direct centre of the pitch. This shows that Debinha can truly aid in forward progression for the Courage no matter what vertical avenue of attack they choose. We see a clear example of this during a seven-minute span during Courage’s quarterfinal match against the Portland Thorns.
Below we can see in the twenty-eight minute that Debinha has drifted far to the left side of the middle third of the pitch. In this moment, she has drawn pressure from the Thorns right-back and subsequently created space to penetrate into for fellow attacker Lynn Williams.
Debinha is able to play the ball into forward attacking space for Williams to run onto. From there Williams takes the ball in a full sprint and creates a chance on goal.
A little over two minutes later, Debinha is roaming in the centre channel directly between Thorns’ midfield and defensive lines. Courage left-back Hinkle has received the ball in the left halfspace and has penetrated forward. When confronted by pressure Hinkle releases the ball horizontally to the feet of Debinha. From there Debinha is able to take a few touches and then delivers a shot at the upper right corner of the goal. The Thorns keeper is narrowly able to deflect the shot.
Three minutes later we find Debinha on the right flank. She receives the ball at her feet from a throw-in and directs her vision towards the Thorns goal. She sees that she has multiple Thorns midfielders and defenders directly in front of her.
Debinha immediately bursts forward into a 1v2 situation and bypasses two Thorns players. Instead of releasing the ball as more Thorns players close in, she continues to penetrate forward towards the box and more direct pressure.
Debinha bypasses three more Thorns players to enter the box, From there she releases a low shot into the bottom corner. Once again, the shot is narrowly saved by the Thorns keeper.
Within only seven minutes Debinha was able to create chances on goal through passing to her teammates, taking a shot on goal and engaging in a dribble that broke through two lines to create a shot on goal. This was all done from three completely different positions on the pitch. Debinha is vital to Courage’s ability to attack from all areas of the pitch in any situation.
In addition to her dribbling abilities, Debinha’s ability to perfectly release the ball to teammates is an important component in Courage’s attacks. This is reflected in a few key statistics (I will use both 2019 and 2020 statistics due to 2019 having a much larger game sample size).
In 2019 Debinha ranked second in the NWSL for deep completions with 2.66 per 90’. Deep completions can be considered a pass completed into the opponent’s box. She also ranked fifth in the league for key passes, a clear chance of scoring a goal, with 1.62 per 90’.
She kept up this production in the 2020 Challenge Cup with an xA of 1.69 per 90’. Additionally, Debinha led the Courage in through passes and deep completions with 12 and 6 respectively.
Her ability to execute these passes come not just from her vision and spatial awareness but in her ability to place the ball in the perfect spot to enhance the Courage’s attack at that moment. We can see her do this with passing the ball into the path of streaking forwards who don’t have to break stride to continue their progression. We also see her place the ball into space where her attacking teammates need to be moving to, almost guiding her teammate with the pass. She is also able to release the ball to teammates in way that when they receive the ball, their body orientation is set up to execute the next attacking movement.
We see a few examples of this below. Early in North Carolina’s group stage match against the Washington Spirit Debinha has received the ball in a transitional moment in the left halfspace. She immediately turns upfield to see fellow attacker McKenzie Meehan lying just below the Spirit centrebacks.
Without hesitation, Debinha releases a perfectly paced ground pass directly between the Spirit centrebacks. As Debinha wound back to create the pass Meehan had begun to streak forward into the gap between the centrebacks. The trajectory of the ball is placed in a way that Meehan is able to watch the ball travel past her and then catch up to it without breaking her stride at all. This allows Meehan to arrive on the ball a few steps ahead of the Spirit centrebacks with only the keeper between herself and the goal.
In the Courage’s match against Sky Blue we also found a moment in which a key Debinha pass set up a quality chance on goal. Debinha has received the ball in the central channel and penetrates forward. In doing so she attracts pressure from four nearby Sky Blue players as well as the visual attention of the Sky Blue right-back. As Debinha presses forward, Crystal Dunn pushes high onto the far shoulder of the right-back.
Debinha waits until the last possible moment to release the ball to Dunn. The ball arrives perfectly at Dunn’s left foot, allowing her to take a controlling touch and then use her next touch to release the ball with the same foot. Debinha’s pace and placement of pass created a situation in which Dunn could create the highest quality chance on goal.
In the quarterfinal match against Thorns Debinha used her pass to reposition her teammate and create a 3v2 situation. From the left flank, Debinha plays the ball into the feet of Dunn. What must be noted is that Debinha curves the ball is such a way that the ball arrives directly in the middle of the three Thorns players in the area.
Dunn’s initial positioning and movement would not have allowed her to receive the ball in such a spatially positive situation. Debinha’s curve on the pass forced Dunn to change her movement and eventually put her in the perfect receiving situation to continue the Courage attack.
Debinha finds a way to use her passing not just to move the ball from herself to her teammates. Her ability allows her to improve her teammates attacking situation by receiving the pass from her.
How she affects Courage’s attacking tactics
Because of Debinha’s passing ability and tendency to roam across the pitch she is able to offer North Carolina many tactical opportunities. Depending on which position of the opponent moves to pressure Debinha as she receives the ball, Courage are able to exploit that space immediately. We can see a few examples of this below.
A common scenario is one in which Sam Mewis (who is rumoured to be joining Champions League qualified Manchester City) plays the ball forward to Debinha who is lurking in between the lines. Debinha is able to receive the ball across her body and immediately direct her vision and body orientation up the pitch. In this moment the opponent centreback will aggressively pressure Debinha to prevent her from cleanly progressing the ball forward.
This movement by the opponent centreback will leave a significant gap in their defensive line. As the centreback moves to pressure, nearby players are in position to pounce on the newly opened space. Central midfielder Dunn will be in a prime position to move forward centrally into the space. Similarly, right forward, typically Kristen Hamilton will be positioned off the shoulder of the opponent left-back and will also be ready to make a run behind into the open gap.
As Hamilton and Dunn make their primary runs into the space Debinha has created, it is not unusual for the Courage fullbacks to make secondary runs into the spaces just vacated. As Dunn moves forward and leaves her midfield position for a more aggressive forward position, the far side fullback can tuck in and offer herself as a central option. Similarly, the right-back can push forward on the flank into the space now left vacant by Hamilton’s diagonal run towards the central channel.
All of this movement is created and executed based on Debinha receiving in between the line and the subsequent reaction of her direct marker.
Another common scenario is for Debinha to be double-teamed when she receives the ball. These moments can be a high-risk high-reward moment for the opponent. If Debinha is pressured from both the opponent midfield and defensive line an even larger amount of space is created for Courage attackers.
North Carolina’s fullback can once again push almost completely unmarked into the attacking third, while the ball-near striker can also make a diagonal run towards the halfspace/flank. Additionally, Mewis or Denise O’Sullivan can drift into space and create a deeper platform for attack in the space that the pressuring midfielder has vacated.
If an opponent chooses to prioritize their backline shape and compactness, they will often pressure Debinha with a midfield player. In this scenario, Mewis or O’Sullivan are then able to penetrate forward into the newly opened space to retrieve a return pass from Debinha
This then allows either Mewis or O’Sullivan to receive the ball facing forward in very dangerous space in front of the opponent defensive line.
All of these scenarios are possible because of the attacking threats that Debinha can create anywhere on the pitch. The opponent must quickly react to Debinha receiving the ball and those reactions create attacking opportunities for her fellow Courage attackers.
Obviously this is all said without mentioning that Debinha also has the capability to win 1v1s in each of these situations.
Although the Courage suffered a disappointing loss in the quarterfinals of the NWSL Challenge Cup, they can move forward knowing that Debinha is in the prime of her career. With her current ability and the potential to improve more, Debinha will be an attacking force in the NWSL for the foreseeable future.