Charlotte FC Defeats Houston, Faces Miami and Messi in Leagues Cup Quarterfinal
After a brilliant Agyemang equalizer, Charlotte's go-ahead goal comes from a bonkers own goal by Houston. Now they fly to Miami to face Messi on Friday.
Note: With Monday night’s win over Houston Dynamo, Charlotte FC will face Inter Miami - and Lionel Messi - on Friday in the quarterfinals of the Leagues Cup, an international competition between Mexican Liga MX teams and U.S. and Canadian MLS teams.
Houston’s Own Goal Gives Charlotte a 2-1 Win
Charlotte FC played better football than Houston Dynamo on Monday night. Charlotte had twice as many shots, and twice as many shots on target as their fourth Leagues Cup opponent.
Despite an early goal from Corey Baird, Houston couldn’t put the game away. As the match progressed, Charlotte’s intensity crescendoed, leading to one of the best second halves the team has played this season.
“We know the ability [Houston] has when they have possession of the ball,” said Charlotte FC coach Christian Lattanzio at a post-match press conference. “We grew into the game and we created chances.”
Both Karol Świderski and Kerwin Vargas had excellent opportunities in front of the goal, with Vargas sending the ball straight to Houston goalkeeper Steve Clark at point blank range. Charlotte’s constant attack led to nine corner kicks to only two for Houston, and Clark had a lot of work to do against a Charlotte team that took 14 shots, with 6 on target. Belgian midfielder Brecht Dejaegere made his first appearance in a Charlotte kit and further contributed to the attack.
Finally, after Patrick Agyemang came in for Świderski in the 72nd minute, Charlotte broke through. A Jaylin Lindsey assist led to a beautiful Patrick Agyemang joker goal in the 80th minute. After receiving the ball, Agyemang maneuvered around Clark and took the shot off balance, falling on his back as the ball went into the net.
At the post-match press conference, Agyemang talked about how the goal came out of his practice sessions with Lindsey.
“He always plays that ball into me and I run it forward,” said Agyemang. “It’s just a confidence thing, being comfortable to take those opportunities.”
However, Monday night’s hero wasn’t in a solar blue Charlotte uniform. Instead, it was Micael dos Santos Silva, the Houston defender who played the ball back to an empty net seconds after Agyemang’s equalizer. Clark was nowhere near Micael’s pass, and the own goal in the 81st minute gave Charlotte an advantage they were able to hold on to through 7 minutes of stoppage time.
Despite the early goal, Charlotte played strong defense. In addition to Lindsey, Charlotte defenders Nathan Byrne and Adilson Malanda were in top form.
“[The defense] controlled the counterattack well,” said Lattanzio. “I think we’re quite young in the back … they’re growing into the role as the games go on and they played really well tonight.”
Byrne played incredible football yet again, shutting down Houston’s attacks in the final third. Byrne picked up Charlotte’s only yellow card, his second in as many matches. Because of the accumulation, Byrne will miss Charlotte’s match against Miami on Friday, August 11.
Losing Byrne was the “only cloud on tonight” according to Lattanzio, who acknowledged the English defender’s exceptional play during the Leagues Cup.
Messi and Miami Await
At the post-match press conference, Coach Lattanzio didn’t want to talk about playing Inter Miami’s Lionel Messi on Friday.
“No, we get to play Miami,” Lattanzio replied to a reporter’s question about playing against Messi.
“I think it’s important for us to enjoy tonight,” he continued, bringing the focus back to his squad.
For Charlotte, the match is about much more than Miami or Messi. With a win, Charlotte advances deep enough into the tournament that they are guaranteed at least two more matches. If they win either match after beating Miami, Charlotte FC would qualify for the CONCACAF Champions Cup for the first time.
However, Charlotte still has to get through Miami.
At the press conference, Lattanzio went on to complement Messi’s brilliance, as well as the Argentinian’s ability to improve the quality of his teammates, the coach made it clear he’s preparing to play 11 Miami players, not just one.
“We don’t play Messi, we play a team that has got Messi,” said Lattanzio.
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