Charlotte FC's "Rocky" Road Ends in New Jersey
For the second time in two years, Charlotte FC's season ends with a loss against the New York Red Bulls, and a game supporters would rather forget.
The day before Charlotte FC’s 5-2 loss to the New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference Wild Card Match, we asked head coach Christian Lattanzio to compare the team’s up-and-down season to a movie.
After a couple seconds of thinking, Lattanzio named one of his favorite films: Rocky.
“Rocky. Because we have been hit many times, but we never gave up, and we are relentless and we come back up every time,” said Lattanzio. “We have been hit in many different ways, many different times, but the boys are always very resilient … the lesson there is that we are ready to stand up, whatever happens to us.”
With Lattanzio specifically in mind, the film I was thinking of was Moneyball, in which Brad Pitt’s Billy Beane comes in with a new system and new way of running a team that confuses many around him and frustrates fans and players alike, but ultimately ends up being successful and takes the Oakland A’s to the playoffs.
Spoiler alert: in both films, the protagonist loses. Despite overcoming numerous obstacles, Rocky loses a split decision to Apollo Creed after going toe-to-toe with the champion for 15 rounds. In Moneyball, the A’s lose to the Minnesota Twins in the first round of the playoffs.
A lethargic loss to the Red Bulls
Charlotte’s performance on Wednesday night in Harrison, NJ started out as lethargic as their 2-0 loss against the Red Bulls last October. In that match, Charlotte had already been eliminated from the playoffs and didn’t have much to play for; this time, however, they were playing to advance to the next round and earn a guaranteed home match against top-ranked Cincinnati.
Despite a Red Bull crowd that could never match the energy of Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte gave up three unanswered goals in the first half due to a relentless press by the home team. Charlotte couldn’t cover John Tolkin (2 goals, 2 assists), who was involved in four of the Red Bulls’ five goals, nor could they stop Elias Manoel (3 goals), who left the pitch with a hat trick.
After the lethargic first 45 minutes, Charlotte attempted a comeback in the final half. Karol Świderski (1 assist) connected with Kerwin Vargas (1 goal) for one of the most brilliant goals of Charlotte’s season, a fearless bicycle kick in the box. Vargas continued his streak of goals, with his third in as many matches.
Patrick Agyemang (1 goal) came off the bench to provide a shot in the arm to Charlotte’s offense, replacing defender Jere Uronen, but even the young prodigy’s energy couldn’t change Charlotte’s fortunes. The Red Bulls answered both of Charlotte’s goals, and Charlotte’s playoff hopes evaporated.
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We’ll have more to talk about in the coming days, but for now we’d just like to say thank you. Thank you to Charlotte FC’s staff and players, who have been generous with their time; thanks to Soccer Sheet contributors Yara Al Bayyari, Jesse Boykin Kimmel, Adrian Singerman, and Rebekah Whilden; thank you to all of you who read the newsletter; and special thanks to our paid subscribers, who offset a small amount of what we spend to provide coverage of this team.
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