Charlotte FC Ends a Rough Week with a Win
Scandal and injuries can't stop Charlotte FC's winning streak against NYC FC
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Charlotte FC’s Week of Woes Ends with a Win
Charlotte FC (3-5-3, 12 points) needed a win.
Their last match was a 3-0 blowout loss in Washington, D.C. They were scraping the bottom of the MLS table, tied for last place in points.
More important, a sexual assault scandal had rocked the organization after Carroll Walton’s reporting uncovered a police report that was confirmed to connect two Charlotte FC players, Andre Shinyashiki and Nuno Santos, to an allegation of rape in the hours after Charlotte FC’s home opener.
Shinyashiki insists a police investigation has cleared him of criminal charges, and an MLS investigation has cleared him to play. Santos had no public comment. Soccer Sheet was able to confirm Shinyashiki and Santos were the only two players connected to the police report, and later a Charlotte FC spokesperson told us “all Charlotte FC players are employees of Major League Soccer. Upon being made aware of a report involving two players, Charlotte FC promptly reported the incident to MLS.”
At Charlotte FC’s weekly pregame press conference, coach Christian Lattanzio declined a chance to comment for the most part, after saying last month that Shinyashiki and Santos were out of the roster due to “personal matter.”
There’s a lot to report here and we’ll have an update as the story develops. MLS has refused multiple requests for comment via text, email, and voicemail.
A win wasn’t going to be easy. Charlotte’s home field “fortress” hasn’t been as reliable this year, with only one home win going into their Saturday night contest against New York City FC (5-3-3, 18 points).
Though Charlotte had beaten NYC in two previous meetings, winger Kamil Jóźwiak and center back Bill Tuiloma were injured and out of the lineup. Though Santos had been transferred to Crown Legacy FC, Shinyashiki is still taking up a roster spot for Charlotte FC that could be put to better use.
Finally, Captain Ashley Westwood had only one game since coming back, and it was goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina’s first MLS start since back surgery.
The good news for the roster, however, was the arrival of winger Justin Meram from Real Salt Lake.
“Justin [Meram] is a player I’ve long admired,” said coach Lattanzio. “He’s a player that I think can be one of our technical leaders. That not only can play well technically, but can help all of the players to play better”
Specifically, Lattanzio though that Meram’s leadership and communication helped Enzo Copetti and Karol Świderski play better together, and also improved McKinze Gaines’ play.
“This team needs help … that I hope we can get in the transfer window,” Lattanzio concluded.
The match was a showcase for Copetti, who had a brace on assists from Meram and Gaines. Crosses arrived at his feet easier than they have in previous matches, giving him the ability to focus on getting open and scoring. His Man of the Match performance had only one blemish, an offsides call that prevented a Świderski from counting.
Nevertheless, Copetti was happy with how he and Świderski were working together. When asked about their connection at the post match press conference, he said “it’s going well but everything takes time.”
Lattanzio, in fact, thought Świderski should have been Man of the Match. In addition to the stolen goal, it was Karol’s free kick that bounced off the NYC midfielder for the decisive own goal that gave Charlotte the win.
After his third straight win over NYC FC, I asked Lattanzio if he thought his previous experience working for City Football Group gave Charlotte FC a tactical advantage over NYC FC.
“It’s not an easy team to play against,” said Lattanzio. “[The experience] can help, but [only] to a point.”
Hopefully the victory isn’t a pyrrhic one. Both Copetti and Derrick Jones will miss the next league match due to both racking up their fifth yellow card of the season (both will still be available for the Open Cup match on Tuesday). Center back Adilson Malanda’s left leg/ankle was injured on the play that resulted in a penalty goal, and was wearing a leg brace when we spoke after the match.
Together, the Jones absence and potential Malanda injury devastate Charlotte’s depth chart at center back. Defender Bill Tuiloma is already out with an injury, leaving fewer and fewer options for Charlotte on the back line.
Lattanzio, however, was still happy with the result.
“Get a yellow, score two goals? I’ll take it.”
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