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"A Good Weekend" for Charlotte Soccer
Charlotte FC draws Toronto and Jóźwiak's drought ends; Crown Legacy FC gets first MLS NEXT Pro win; Independence pick up an away win in advance of the 321 Derby; STL finally falls.
During a post-match press conference after Charlotte FC’s 2-2 comeback draw in Toronto on April 1, coach Christian Lattanzio called it a “good weekend for the club.” Despite being down two midfielders (Ashley Westwood due to an injury, and Brandt Bronico due to a red card suspension), Charlotte was able to grind out a draw against Toronto FC, picking up an away point and keeping the squad out of last place in the Eastern Conference.
The draw came on the heels of Crown Legacy FC’s first victory in MLS NEXT Pro play at the Matthews Sportsplex on March 31 - hence Lattanzio’s comment. His squad watched the match from a conference room at the St. Regis Toronto:
In addition to the two Tepper Sports Entertainment squads, the Charlotte Independence had a successful away match against their regional rival, the Richmond Kickers, pulling out a 1-2 win on the road. The win preserves their unbeaten streak to start the season, and puts the Independence atop the USL 1 standings.
While not a league match, the Independence will look to continue that streak on Wednesday in their first Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match of 2023. They face cult club Appalachian FC of Boone, N.C. at 7:00 PM on April 5 at Matthews Sportsplex, in what the Y’all Weekly team is calling the “321 Derby.” Tickets are free, so it’s a great opportunity to come out and support the local soccer ecosystem.
Editor’s Note: despite multiple references below to events on April Fools’ Day (April 1), all of the fixtures below are factual. You may disagree with our analysis and commentary, but the scores are (hopefully) right.
Charlotte FC Finds Out Which Way the Wind Is Blowing
The wind during Charlotte FC’s April 1 match in Toronto was oppressive - and at least for Toronto, it was the 12th Man, assisting with an early Olimpico and another goal late in the first half from a corner kick.
“It was a tough night in terms of weather conditions … it was really tough to play,” coach Lattanzio remarked after the match.
Charlotte goalkeeper George Marks spent the first half with the wind in his face, giving up two goals from wind-assisted shots that were likely impossible to save despite making a brilliant double save in the 33rd minute.
As a squad, Charlotte played better soccer than Toronto in both halves, but the combination of the wind and individual mistakes stopped Charlotte from going home with a win. In the 9th minute - after Toronto was already on the board - midfielder Nuno Santos was given a gift by the opposing defense and failed to get the ball in the back of the net. After a couple more mistakes, Santos was the first Charlotte player to be relieved, with Karol Świderski replacing him in the second half.
Once the teams switched sides, it was Charlotte’s match. Winger Kamil Jóźwiak delivered a nice ball to midfielder Ben Bender for a textbook goal. After 11 months as a scoreless Designated Player, Jóźwiak finally broke through with a 70th minute equalizer assisted by winger Kerwin Vargas, who continues to be one of Charlotte’s strongest offensive contributors.
After the match, Jóźwiak made it clear what he thought the difference between the two halves was: “the first half we played against the wind, so it was more difficult for us.”
In the 83rd minute, Adilson Malanda had the defensive play of the match, preventing a likely Toronto goal with a clean sliding tackle and keeping the score level until the final whistle. Thanks to the assist and his first MLS goal, Jóźwiak left Toronto with Man of the Match honors.
When we asked coach Lattanzio about Jóźwiak scoring his first goal, he made sure to remind the assembled reporters on the post-match Zoom that his forward also had an assist. Lattanzio and Charlotte’s front office tend to be defensive about their “other” Polish designated player, pointing out contributions on the pitch that topline numbers may not accurately reflect.
As opposed to the milestone of the goal and assist, “I am more concerned about performance,” said Lattanzio in response to our question.
Jóźwiak shared Lattanzio’s sentiment, and was quick to push back against the idea this was his best offensive performance for Charlotte, pointing to a match last year where he thought he had a better performance. “I think I’m in good form … this year I think we’re a better team, more clever.”
Charlotte’s next match is away in Salt Lake on Saturday, April 8 at 7:30 PM Mountain/9:30 PM Eastern. The Crown returns home on April 15 to play the Colorado Rapids.
Player to Watch: Brandon Cambridge
Brandon Cambridge of Crown Legacy FC contributed both of the team’s goals in their March 31 win over FC Cincinnati 2 - the first win in team history.
Check out his first goal below:
A Historic Run Comes to an End
After five wins to start their inaugural season, St. Louis CITY SC finally ran out of steam against Minnesota United FC on Saturday April 1, losing 0-1 at home in a match decided by a second half penalty kick.
CITY’s early attack was indicative of a squad leading the league in both wins and goal differential. In the second half, however, they gave away multiple chances to Minnesota due to weak play, and eventually a late, unnecessary tackle in the box provided Minnesota with the penalty they needed to go ahead.
Klauss and the CITY team never gave up, but nothing made it in the net during stoppage time. Despite the loss, they’re still leading the race for the MLS Supporters Shield, and they remain top in goal differential with a net of +10 from 15 total goals.
Der Klassiker Puts Bayern Back Where They Expect to Be
Bayern Munich scored three unanswered goals in the first half of their home match against rivals Borussia Dortmund to make it clear they belong back atop the German Bundesliga table in their first match after sacking manager Julian Nagelsmann.
Thomas Müller’s brace gave the Bavarian club the edge in a 4-2 win. A SC Freiberg draw and a Leipzig loss mean the race for first in Germany is down to Munich, Dortmund, and Union Berlin: only 4 points separate the teams, though with an insurmountable goal differential of 47, Bayern would come out ahead in the unlikely event of a tie on points.
While soccer fans wait patiently for the return of Champions League play, on Tuesday April 4 all six of the Bundesliga’s top teams will meet in the quarterfinals of the DFB-Pokal (the German Cup). Eintracht Frankfurt hosts Union Berlin, Bayern hosts the dangerous SC Freiburg, and Leipzig hosts Dortmund.
Arsenal Closes in on Premier League Title
With between 9 and 11 matches left for most Premier League clubs, it’s becoming less and less likely that anyone but Manchester City can catch Arsenal. The Gunners have won their last five, and with four more wins they’ll mathematically eliminate every team other than Man City from first place honors.
Manchester City is still alive and well in both the Champions League and the Football Association Cup, so given their current 8 point deficit (and 14 point lead over 3rd place), they’re in a comfortable spot to focus on their upcoming Champions League matches against Bayern.
Meanwhile, with a home loss to Aston Villa this weekend, Chelsea finds itself in the bottom half of the table along with fellow London clubs Crystal Palace and West Ham. With Fulham in 10th and Brentford in 7th, the Spurs remain the only London club with a reasonable shot at reaching the Champions League next year.
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