CLTvCIN - First Half
Will the real Queen City please stand up?
In Saturday’s game against FC Cincinnati, the Charlotte Football Club marched out in their black and mint-colored community kit and established which Queen City is the real Queen City.
Spoiler alert: it’s Charlotte.
The first bit of good news came from the starting eleven. Just hours after President Biden addressed the free world from his home country, Polish forward Karol Świderski took the field despite injury worries that are keeping him in the United States and away from international play.
First Half: Charlotte Offense
He made an immediate difference. For the second time in two games, Świderski drew first blood in the 6th minute of play. In a 4-1-3-2 formation, Forward Daniel Ríos passed in front of midfielder Ben Bender, who made a strong run to the ball and crossed it to the boot of Charlotte’s undisputed star. After 6 minutes of play, Bender had 3 assists and a goal on the season, Świderski had 3 goals and an assist, Ríos
During last week’s after-match press conference, Świderski “I think my first touch was my first shot of the game … if you score in the beginning of the game, you feel confident and you feel much better.”
In the sixteenth minute, Charlotte’s approach to the match was on display, challenging the ball across the field – in front of the keeper, along the sidelines, doing everything they could to prevent a Cincinnati response. Even as Cincinnati identified Bender as the crucial link between players like team captain Christian Fuchs and the offense, and attempted to neutralize Bender, Charlotte continued to find opportunities and kept up the pressure.
In the 40th minute, a nice shot from Ríos earned Charlotte a corner, but they couldn’t convert. However, it was the third or fourth good shot on target of the match, one of which had already gone in.
First Half: Charlotte Defense
In my preview for the game, I highlighted Cincinnati striker Brandon Vazquez, who racked up two goals and an assist last weekend. Like Swiderski, he made the MLS Team of the Week at the forward position. In the first half, however, midfielder Luciano "Lucho" Acosta provided Cincy with the most opportunities.
Unfortunately for the other Queen City, few of those opportunities came in the first two-thirds of the first half.
After 30 minutes of play, Cincinnati star Acosta may have been frustrated as he launched a long shot to Kahlina’s left, missing the goal. His team wasn’t creating many opportunities, and he hadn’t gotten in a good shot. In the 32nd minute, Fuchs got beat and Vazquez got a better shot, but Charlotte’s impregnable goalkeeper made an amazing save, rushing towards the ball and keeping the Crown Town club out of trouble with the save of the half.
Outside of Kahlina’s exceptional play, I appreciated Charlotte’s defensive effort. Acosta took another shot from outside the box in the 43rd minute – but only after a clean slide tackle from midfielder Derrick Jones prevented a much more dangerous chance. Then, right before the first half stoppage time, Acosta launched a bad shot from long.
In stoppage time, Acosta tried something else and passed to Alvas Powell, creating Cincy’s best opportunity of the first half. Kristijan Kahlina’s response was nothing short of supernatural – not because of any amazing play on his part, but because Powell froze in his tracks, overthinking a relatively open shot.
Stoppage time has been a bit of a danger zone for Charlotte. The team has given up two goals in stoppage time so far this season. While Cincy couldn’t turn any opportunities into goals in the first half, Świderski was fouled hard near the end of the half – the sort of rough play from Cincy the official warned would draw a card if it happened again.
Keep it up!
Charlotte possessed the ball for 63% of the first half. If they keep that up, the second half should continue to produce good chances for Charlotte, and fewer good chances for Cincinnati.