Who is: Nicholas Gioacchini?

The Basics

  • Name: Nicholas Gioacchini
  • DOB: 25 July 2000
  • Position: Striker, Right Winger
  • Current Club: SM Caen
  • Previously: Paris FC
  • Passports: United States, Italy, Jamaica

Background

Born in Kansas City, Gioacchini’s another young American whose youth was spent traveling between the United States and various countries overseas. His father’s job saw the family move around often. Their first big move came in 2008 to Italy followed by their second just four years later back stateside when he was 12 years old. They lived in Bethesda, Maryland for the next three years, but the Gioacchini family were up and moving once again – this time to France – and the timeline for 20-year-old’s current position at SM Caen began.

Once in France, Gioacchini restarted his youth soccer career with Paris FC in 2015 and stayed in their youth set up until 2017 when he was moved up to their reserve side. He began playing professionally with the reserve team, Paris FC II, during the 2017-18 season and then caught the eye of then Ligue 1 side SM Caen. In May 2018, Caen signed Gioacchini and placed him in their reserve side for the 2018-19 season. After Caen were relegated, Gioacchini was promoted to the first team ahead of their return to Ligue 2 in the 2019-20 season.

Ironically, the next milestone in Gioacchini’s career would come at the Stade Sébastien Charléty. He made his debut for Caen’s first team as a starter against Pairs FC and scored his first goal for the club as they cruised to a 4-2 win that night. Impressed by his debut performance, newly appointed manager Pascal Dupraz made Gioacchini a consistent figure in Caen’s match day squad. He started 16 of his 18 Ligue 2 appearances that season and scored four goals before the 2019-20 season was canceled entirely in France due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Gioacchini currently has three goals from his first eight games this season.

Style of Play

Gioacchini is a scrappy finisher who knows how to work between defenders and drop into the midfield to help link play. Caen often shifts between a front two and a front three, meaning Gioacchini has experience playing as the focal point of the attack, on the right side of a front three and as the false nine behind a target striker. His strength and speed allow him to hold his own as a lone striker or get by players in the wider spaces, and his ability to contribute to the build-up play sets the foundations for a well-rounded striker.

Watching each of his goals for Caen, there is a natural sense of positioning and anticipation in Gioacchini’s movement in the box that all good strikers have. He gets on the end of crosses at either post and exploits the gaps between the center backs or the center back and their same-sided full back with his well-timed runs. His 1.25 shots per 90 show a reluctance to take shots – especially those from further out than the penalty mark – but Gioacchini also averages an efficient 0.6 goals per shot on target, as per FBRef. He doesn’t shoot often, but he hits the back of the net most times when he does.

The deficiency in shots is also partially due to his tendency to drop further away from goal or drift into the wider channels to receive the ball. Doing so, however, has improved his ability to take defenders on, control the ball in tight spaces and distribute the ball from deep. Although his understanding of when and where to move seems more natural, his skill set in the box and in working the defensive lines is like Gyasi Zardes. Gioacchini’s cleaner on the ball than Zardes, but his ability to get vertical passes off in transition needs a bit more work at this point.

As the target man in Caen’s front line, Gioacchini can flex his physical strength when he holds the ball up with his back to goal and contests in aerial duels. He’s a relatively dangerous threat on set pieces as well with his ability to win headers, but his finishing is much stronger when the ball is played on the ground to his feet. With the way he likes to sit on the last defender’s shoulder, Gioacchini also pushes defenses backwards to open room for the 10 or secondary striker behind the opposition’s midfield.

Gioacchini is also another player on this roster who can change speeds instantaneously on the ball to blow by players. He drew a lot of fouls this way last year in Ligue 2 (the seventh most fouls drawn by an individual player, actually) and uses his explosiveness to get by defenders in the wide channels or when cutting inside. Despite his tendency to drift into the right channel, his pace is probably better served in more central positions as they allow him to get in behind defenders or break an initial line of press to push his team forward.

Expectations for the November 2020 camp

The biggest question mark heading into this camp hovers over who the Josh Sargent replacement will be: Sebastian Soto or Nicholas Gioacchini (or Timothy Weah)? While Gioacchini is a better overall forward than Soto (in my opinion), I think Gregg Berhalter will lean towards giving Soto his opportunity to lead the line first against Wales. If Gioacchini sees the field against Wales, I think his movement will complement the wingers’ tendencies to play narrow and disrupt the compact defensive structure Wales will play in. One start and one substitute appearance are my guesses for Gioacchini’s involvement with the USMNT this month.

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