Coach Lattanzio: "Trust the Process"

As Charlotte FC struggles to find its footing, Head Coach Christian Lattanzio looks to reassure a frustrated fanbase.

Charlotte FC (1-4-2, 5 points) has had no shortage of troubles this year. Between injuries and the tragic death of defender Anton Walkes, the club has struggled to find a starting eleven that can execute Head Coach Christian Lattanzio’s system, score goals, and win matches.

At a Thursday press conference, Soccer Sheet spoke with Lattanzio about the team’s recent struggles, and reasons for optimism. Questions and answers below are edited for length and clarity, or you can watch the unedited video of our conversation.

Soccer Sheet: In about 45 days you’ll be a full year into the coaching job. Where do you hope the team is by then?

Christian Lattanzio: I hope that the team will continue to grow in being an offensive team and in developing an offensive mentality.

To play offensive football you have to start firstly with an attacking mentality, and it is something we are developing.

Attacking mentality is not just when you have the ball, but also offensive mentality, [but also when you don’t have the ball] and executing the defensive play strongly.

Lattanzio also addressed the struggles the club has had fielding their starting eleven:

CL: In order to move on you have to have a fair shot. We brought three players in … Bill [Tuiloma] is obviously a player we brought in to replace our Anton, and he’s still coming to terms and he came just after the preseason was done so he missed a good chunk of the work …

Guzmán [Corujo] is still missing, [Kristijan] Kahlina is still missing. You know, when you have that kind of leadership on the pitch that can help and solidify the players that [they’re playing with], it gives everyone a confidence boost.

Lattanzio also talked about how these roster issues contributed to a disappointing 3-1 loss against Real Salt Lake:

CL: At the moment we are trying to do our best … we had the lapse of concentration and energy for 10 minutes that was very costly, [but we also created chances ourselves] …

People have to take these things into consideration. It’s very easy to say that everything doesn’t work after a [bad] result … to be judged [fairly], let’s have all of our boys in place and then I think a fairer assessment will be made.

SS: You’ve had a lot of setbacks this year with the roster. Real Salt Lake was a hard match that raised questions about the defense. Who have you asked to step up and be defensive leaders, and what are you asking of them to get the performance you want out of your back line?

CL: I ask everybody. Football is a situational game that requires situational leaders … I ask Karol [Świderski] to be the leader in organizing [the press in the front].

At the back I ask everybody, and they have responded. They understand the mistakes they made are something they know should have done better. We work on that.

Lattanzio referenced the late arrival of Bill Tuiloma again before diving into assessments of other defensive players, asking for patience as some of the younger talent develops without the presence of experienced players.

CL: [Adilson Malanda] is a very young guy, he’s very talented, we love Adil, but he also must be given the chance to make mistakes …

George Marks is doing well but he’s another young player that is entitled to make mistakes …

So I am asking everybody to step up and to take leadership in the moment in which they can take leadership …

It takes time, and unfortunately we cannot count on the experience of people like [Kristijan] Kahlina, people like Guzmán [Corujo], people like Ashley [Westwood] …

Again we have to give time to these guys. The moments of difficulties are also moments of opportunities where we can build our foundation to go places. We just need to be patient and keep working

SS: The fanbase has been a little more frustrated than normal. What do you say to them? Why do you know that this team can come back and make the playoffs, and live up to expectations?

CL: I said to our supporters to back up the guys because they work hard on a daily basis in training and [the players] deserve their support. This is without question.

[The players] go out with their hearts on their sleeves and they want to do really well for themselves and for the fanbase that they deeply love. I know this for a fact.

At the same time [the fans] have to trust the process … in order to be realistic they have to wait until we’ve got all of our players in place because otherwise it’s not fair on the young guys who are giving their best [with limited experience] … they are building on a daily basis, on a weekly basis in MLS.

Lattanzio concluded his answer by asking for patience as the team comes together while taking responsibility for the team’s challenges.

It’s great to have a high expectation. We want to go to the playoff. We believe we can still achieve this objective.

Just trust the process that the boys are working really hard and well on a daily basis: if nothing else to give them the support.

But at the same time I understand that we have to deserve that. I’m looking for no excuses, no alibi. It’s just stating the facts … having the players out of the squad is not easy for us.

Fans won’t have to wait for long to see the team in action again. Charlotte FC plays the Colorado Rapids (1-3-3, 6 points) on Saturday April 15. The teams have met once before in league play in a snowy 2022 match in Colorado that ended in a 0-0 draw.

New York’s Dante Vanzeir suspended for six matches

Before we go, some quick follow-up on a story I’ve been following for Queen City Nerve. In case you missed it:

In the 54th minute of the April 8 match between the New York Red Bulls and the San Jose Earthquakes, New York forward Dante Vanzeir, who is white, made a heinous racial remark near San Jose striker Jeremy Ebobisse, who is Black.

“What we saw tonight should not be part of the game,” said Ebobisse in a post-match press conference where he described that a “racial epithet” was used. “I know what I heard.”

At 6 PM today, MLS announced Vanzeir is out for six matches:

Major League Soccer has suspended Red Bulls forward Dante Vanzeir for six MLS regular season games for the use of racist language during the New York Red Bulls match against the San Jose Earthquakes on April 8, 2023. Vanzeir is prohibited from participating in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, MLS NEXT Pro games, and exhibition matches until the suspension is completed.

The League has also imposed an undisclosed fine and will require Vanzeir to participate in additional League-mandated training and education sessions, as well as a restorative practices program.

In the wake of the incident, Vanzeir had previously excused himself from the team indefinitely. An investigation by MLS is still in the works due to the delayed reaction to the incident from the New York Red Bulls and MLS officials that resulted in a 20 minute stoppage.

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Sam Spencer