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Charlotte FC Defeats Club Necaxa and Wins their Leagues Cup Group
... but loses Bank of America Stadium to Beyoncé
Charlotte FC’s Leagues Cup squad is in good form. With a penalty kick shootout win against FC Dallas, and a convincing 1-4 win over Club Necaxa, the team is clicking during the one-month break for the international competition between U.S. and Canadian teams from MLS, and Mexican teams from Liga MX.
“I’m very proud to play the game on our terms,” said Charlotte coach Christian Lattanzio at a post-match press conference on July 29. “I’m also very pleased because I saw the boys enjoy playing together, and that’s the most important thing.”
Though technically the “away” team in front of 29,575 fans at Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte gained an advantage early with a Brandt Bronico goal off of an assist from Karol Świderski. For a moment, it seemed as if Necaxa would respond with a vicious counterattack, but two of their goals in the next 10 minutes were overturned by the officials - one due to a foul, and the other for an offsides obstruction call.
The second call was poetic justice for Charlotte, since an obstruction call against Świderski would prevent Scott Arfield from celebrating his first goal with the club during Charlotte’s match against FC Dallas last week.
The frustrated Necaxa squad suffered Świderski goal off of a Jóźwiak assist before the pitch finally broke out into a fight in the first minute of stoppage time. Charlotte captain Ashley Westwood and defender Nathan Byrne were shown yellow cards during the altercation.
Charlotte responded to the Leagues Cup brawl with Arfield finally getting his first goal for the club. With his assist on the play, Świderski was involved in all three of Charlotte’s first half goals, clearly earning Man of the Match honors before he came off for Patrick Agyemang in the 77th minute. Bronico had the “hockey assist” to Świderski on the play.
Charlotte went in to the locker room with a three goal advantage, and Necaxa’s fortunes never improved. Early in the second half, Necaxa’s Édgar Méndez drew an unambiguous red card for a full-body tackle of Świderski, giving Charlotte a one man advantage for the rest of the match.
Agyemang was a worthy replacement for Świderski, scoring a goal off a Jaylin Lindsey assist in the closing minutes of the match.
“Every time I get a chance I hope to score, and I’m happy to do so today,” Agyemang said during a post match press gaggle. “[The decisive victory] was exactly what we needed going into the knockout round.”
A combination of injuries and strong performance has given Agyemang a chance to be a leader on the first team after starting the season with Charlotte’s MLS NEXT Pro squad and second team, Crown Legacy FC.
“At least since Enzo was injured, I pushed Karol [Swiderski] as a number 9 and then Patrick [Agyemang] has been backup,” said Lattanzio after the match. “I’ve said many times I have a little bit of experience working with young players. The challenge with them is not so much to bring them to the first team, but to make sure they stay.”
The assist was the cherry on top of another solid match for Lindsey, who has inspired a popular rallying cry among Charlotte FC supporters: “Play Jaylin Lindsey Every Damn Game.”
You can be forgiven if you missed Necaxa’s response from Vicente Poggi in the 89th minute, which erased Kahlina’s clean sheet but had no bearing on the outcome of the match.
With the 1-4 victory, Charlotte won the “South 4” group in the the Leagues Cup, and will face Liga MX squad Cruz Azul on Thursday, August 3 in the first round of knockout play. Cruz Azul finished second in their group, which makes Charlotte the home team for the match, but surprisingly, they won’t play that match at Bank of America stadium.
Despite defeating Dallas and earning first place in their group, Charlotte FC will play their next Leagues Cup match in Texas.
Shortly after the July 29 match, a Charlotte FC spokesperson released the following statement:
“Due to stadium commitments made before Leagues Cup 2023 was scheduled, Bank of America Stadium is unavailable to host Charlotte FC’s Round of 32 match against Cruz Azul. The Club made every effort to explore alternative venues in the area but was unable to secure a venue in line with the operational requirements of the tournament. Charlotte FC’s Round of 32 match against Cruz Azul will be played at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, TX on Thursday, August 3.”
A source identified the August 8th and 9th Beyoncé concerts at Bank of America stadium as the unavoidable conflict. Though the first show is five days after the date of Charlotte’s round of 32 Leagues Cup match against Cruz Azul, the concert requires significant prep work. Charlotte stagehands union IATSE Local 322 recently put out a call for workers to unload and build the stage starting around August 2.
Charlotte FC President Joe LaBue took to Twitter on July 30 to explain the situation further:
A stadium event that has been planned for over a year created the unfortunate scheduling scenario. It’s not as simple as “move it” or “change the setup timeline.”
Potential match windows for knockout rounds were shared well after the event was already on the books. Not a specific date but a block. It’s Murphy’s Law it happened to be the same week. Furthermore, we’re not the only MLS club with building conflicts I can assure you.
There’s nothing better than playing at home, with our supporters carrying us. The team earned it. Travel is not ideal and we wish it were different. To suggest our club didn’t make best efforts is shortsighted. The frustration is shared but we adjust and move on.
When Soccer Sheet asked Lattanzio about the scheduling conflict, he shared the disappointment of supporters who were looking forward to a match in Charlotte.
“I’m disappointed too. I would like to play here; I would like to play with our supporters,” said Lattanzio. “Having won the group, I think we earned the right to play here. Unfortunately, that’s not possible.”
“It’s definitely a tough one,” said Agyemang when asked about the scheduling conflict. “We’re going to go to Dallas and wherever we have to play.”
Based on the duration of the Beyoncé engagement, including set up and break down, it seems unlikely Charlotte will host another Leagues Cup match this year, even if they make it deep into the tournament. Should Charlotte win their match against Cruz Azul, they’ll play the winner of Houston Dynamo and C.F. Pachuca, the latter of which was the 2021-2022 Liga MX champion.
As for Queen Bey, Charlotte FC players are clearly unimpressed. When we asked Agyemang and defender Andrew Privett for their favorite Beyoncé tracks, neither player could name a single Beyoncé single.
If that surprises you, there may be a reason: a Charlotte FC employee who staffs the team told us after the match, “The players are too young to know a Beyoncé song.”
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