Czech midfielder Pavel Bucha looks to be Chris Albright’s first international addition to FC Cincinnati’s roster for 2024. Bucha arrives from Viktoria Plzeň in the top tier of the Czech league. Given the fee, Junior Moreno’s signing elsewhere and Bucha’s pedigree playing in continental competitions, it’s likely that he will partner with Obi Nwobodo in central midfield for the Orange and Blue. So, what should FCC supporters expect to see from Bucha on the field?
What The Data Says
First, the return to a mid-tier European league to fill a roster hole is an interesting one. For 2023-24, Czechia ranks 11th in UEFA’s domestic club coefficient rankings, two spots behind Turkey. Albright’s comfort with trusting how success in Turkey’s Süper Lig would translate well to Major League Soccer has been vindicated by the play of Nwobodo and Aaron Boupendza. Whether the transition from the Fortuna Liga to MLS is as seamless of a transition as the one from the Süper Lig remains to be seen but the thought process seems sound.
PAVEL BUCHA (for @pesi44126105)
𝗘𝗟𝗘𝗠𝗘𝗡𝗧𝗔𝗥𝗬 𝟮𝟬𝟮𝟐/𝟮𝟑 𝗗𝗔𝗧𝗔:
Career stage: entering peak
Club: FC Viktoria Plzeň
* personal note:
it's not like he'd make a bad CDM, it's just that it's an eternal shame pic.twitter.com/qPD1MdbeQR
— Czech Football 🇨🇿 (@czechfooty) July 23, 2023
At first glance, Bucha looks like an excellent fit for an evolving FCC roster. For the last two seasons, Álvaro Barreal provided uncommon attacking output for a left wingback. Assuming Barreal gets the move he is looking for to Europe this month, Bucha looks able to fill in some of the missing final third production that leaves.
Last year, Bucha ranked in the top 15 among Fortuna Liga midfielders in passes, progressive passes and deep completions per Wyscout data. Though he doesn’t seem to push the ball forward on the dribble all that often, Bucha can clearly help get the ball forward to the likes of Boupendza and Lucho Acosta in the final third.
Bucha also gets forward and takes shots. He’s averaged 2.15 shots per 90 minutes this season and 0.22 non-penalty expected goals per game. For context, Acosta averaged 0.23 npxG, Barreal averaged 0.10 npxG and Moreno averaged 0.05 npxG per 90 minutes in 2023. Assuming he leaves, not only will FCC miss Barreal’s passing in the final third but also his ability to crash the box and find shots. Bucha’s offensive profile suggests he can replace some of Barreal’s contributions as a more attack-minded midfielder.
To borrow a term more generally used in basketball, and similar to Boupendza, Bucha is a bit of gunner when it comes to shot selection. There are examples of good shots but plenty of speculative efforts from outside the 18-yard box.
Defensively, Bucha looks like a good fit for Pat Noonan’s system given his strengths in the counterpress. Per Wyscout, Bucha averaged 2.6 recoveries in the final third per 90 minutes and 6.09 counter-pressing recoveries per 90 minutes. Wyscout credits Bucha with just one ball recovery via sliding tackle this season but 73 interceptions. Bucha looks likely to contribute defensively, just not at the same clip as Nwobodo, and in a different way.
Bucha should give Noonan an option in midfield who can do more going forward in a 3-5-2 and take some offensive expectation off an outside back’s plate. Even with the outstanding questions at wingback, FCC looks to be in a position to find more offensive answers in 2024 with the addition of Bucha.