Analysis: Brenner brings ‘killer instinct’

FC Cincinnati is banking on Brazilian striker Brenner Souza da Silva making an immediate impact on the offense.

The club, which scored 12 goals in 2020, announced the signing of ‘Brenner’ on a transfer from São Paulo as a young designated player Tuesday. According to multiple sources, FCC is paying a $13 million transfer fee for Brenner’s goal-scoring ability and future sell-on potential.

Only time will tell if the investment is worth the risk, but here’s a look at what Brenner brings to the table from the perspective of Guilherme Mirra (find him on Twitter @guilherme_mirra). Mirra works for SofaScore Brazil, a site that provides live results and stats, and specializes in tactical analysis of São Paulo.

The following is Mirra’s analysis of Brenner’s career and how he was utilized at his former club.

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Brenner was promoted to São Paulo’s first team as a 17-year old in 2017 with a very impressive record for the youth academy: 80 goals in 84 games (as per AspirantesTricolores). Being 5-foot-8 and relatively quick, he was mainly deployed as a winger until the end of 2018. Even then, he managed to score a few goals: Four in 29 games — 2 of those coming against fierce rivals Corinthians.

However, Brenner is a natural-born striker, with excellent interpretation of space and positioning skills — specially inside the box. He likes to attack the far post, either behind the fullback or between defenders.

He’s also surprisingly good in the air. Only three players scored more headed goals than him (3) in the league this season. Since he’s not a very tall player, positioning is key to that impressive tally. Brenner exploits the “half-space” (gap between the center-back and fulback) a lot, as the images show.

The young striker is not tall or strong enough to hold off defenders and lead the offensive line by himself. His best form came while playing alongside Luciano, a typical second striker. The 4–2–2–2, São Paulo’s most used formation in the season, favored the duo: Cincy’s new signing was assisted five times by the No. 11 — no other teammate reached that amount.

Photo credt: Rubens Chiri/saopaulofc.net

Although Brenner operates as a nine, he likes to drop deep sometimes — and does so mostly in the left side of attack, as his heatmap suggests. This movement helps to create space behind the defense for others to exploit, generate passing lanes with one-twos/layoffs and draw fouls.

Brenner’s heatmap since he became a starter for Sao Paulo on Oct. 7, 2020 (via SofaScore)

Last but not least, the killer instinct.

Brenner is always in the right place at the right time and the ball appears to fall exactly where he is. Former São Paulo manager Fernando Diniz described him as a striker who has the “goal charisma,” and he needed only one touch to score in 17 of his 22 goals for São Paulo in 2020.

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FC Cincinnati general manager Gerard Nijkamp said Tuesday that Brenner addresses a “glaring need” with his goal-scoring ability, and he expects the 21-year-old to make an immediate impact.

With coach Jaap Stam favoring the 4-3-3, it’s likely Brenner serves as the lone center forward with possibly Jurgen Locadia on the left wing and Alvaro Barreal on the right wing and presumably a new No. 10 behind him. Nijkamp said both Brenner and Locadia could play striker in situations where maybe Stam goes back to the 3-5-2, but FCC needs that additional starting center back to make that work.

It will be interesting to see how the lineup shapes out as the roster fills out. Teams are preparing to begin preseason Feb. 22 (though the Washington Post’s Steve Goff reports that date could be pushed back), and Nijkamp said he remains confident his roster will be complete by then.

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