(Editorial) – In the past three league matches, Saint Louis FC have come back from being down 1-0 to draw 1-1. In all three of those matches, outside midfielder Charles Renken has come into the match from the bench in the second half. He was on the field for all three equalizing goals, contributing a goal and an assist in this stretch.
Renken also came on the in second half of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match against Minnesota United FC. The Chupacabras were down 1-0 in the second half; Renken lost his mark, made a run into the box, and drew a penalty. Bryan Gaul would convert the penalty in the 80th minute and Saint Louis FC would go on to win 3-1 in penalties.
The results suggest that Renken is a super sub. But what is it about Renken that is kick-starting Saint Louis FC’s second half offense?
The mechanism of how a super sub is a super sub isn’t one size fits all. Some are needed for a formation change or a change in style of play. Some just provide fresh legs. Some strikers are super subs because they come on when the team is down and chasing a goal and can regularly pull one back. None of these descriptions are mutually exclusive.
In every recent substitute appearance, Renken came in for a fellow midfielder. His entrance into the game has not changed the formation for the most park. Renken is pacey and adept on the ball – other than Parker Maher, no other player on the team is a better wide player. Both Maher and Renken stretch the field extremely well and use their speed to get into dangerous positions and win offensive ground for the team. Renken has entered the game not to change their formation, but to change the style of play.
He stretches the field and allows the rest of the team to loft long balls to him into space. They can also play through the middle of the field, afterwards delivering a through pass down the flank to Renken. This allows Saint Louis FC to create a quick counter from the midfield, and also gives them time to get numbers into the box.
As Dale Schilly said last match, this is most effective when Renken comes into the game. The team has already seen their opponent and gotten familiar with them. When losing late in the match, this play is simple and easy for tired legs. Renken’s fresh legs are also more effective when the opponent has already played an hour or more.
This play against Minnesota is an excellent example of Renken burning a defender with tired legs. He had come in just a few minutes prior, receiving the ball from Barklage out wide. He makes a move on his mark and blows right by him, the defender forced to make a split second decision and tackles – Renken is taken down in the box and earns a penalty.
Later that week, Renken would score to secure a draw against Kings Cup rival, Louisville City FC. As the long pass is played, Renken makes his run splitting the defenders, the ball played into the space between them. Just like against Minnesota, Renken took on and slipped past a tired defender. This time, his first touch is a well placed shot into the back of the net.
Here we see Renken take a short corner that leads to a game tying goal by Sam Fink. Renken has not taken many set pieces for Saint Louis FC. With Patrick Doody called up by the Chicago Fire, he took some of that load. We still haven’t seen enough of Renken on set pieces to conclude whether he should be taking more free kicks over Doody, Mike Roach, etc. If nothing else, Renken has shown he can fill in when needed.
Each of these plays is an example of what Renken brings to the team off the bench. When in possession in an advanced position, he can make a play when the rest of the team is stagnant. When in possession but lacking in options up the field, he can be that release valve for instant offense. He’s got a decent cross when it’s needed.
Renken surely fits the fresh legs super sub mold. He comes in and is a weapon that allows his team to shift their style of play instantly. He becomes one of the focal points of the attack. It simplifies things for the rest of the team and makes it easier for them; it has also been extremely effective. To date, it does not appear that another player on the roster could provide what Renken does when they make this switch.
Super sub Charles Renken has been the key to several recent comebacks for Saint Louis FC. He has found a quality and much needed role on the team. Renken kick-starts his team when they need it most and that’s why Charles Renken is King Cardiac Chupacabra.
Main Photo Courtesy of Mark Guthrel, team photographer of Saint Louis FC.