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Grand Theft Advantage: Vice City
Inter Miami steals a crucial road win from Charlotte FC
The Football Gods giveth, and the Football Gods taketh away.
After a 4-1 rout of Nashville SC at home, with three goals scored in the second half, Charlotte FC (8-11-2, 26 points) conceded three goals in their second half against Inter Miami (7-9-4, 25 points) to turn a 0-2 advantage at the half into a 3-2 loss.
“The players win the game and the coaches can lose it, so obviously I take it on myself,” said interim head coach Christian Lattanzio at a post-match press conference. “We found it difficult to adapt to the different tempo that Miami was giving.”
Miami controlled the ball for over 70% of the second half and had enough opportunities to make the score 5-2. Charlotte’s defense collapsed at critical moments; by the end of the match, Miami had 15 shots to Charlotte’s four, and seven shots on target to Charlotte’s three.
All three of Charlotte’s good shots came from Peruvian winger Yordy Reyna.
The Reign of Reyna
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the loss was how it overshadowed a season-best performance from Reyna, who picked up a brace and was one excellent Miami save away from a hat trick (and a Charlotte draw).
In the first minute, Kamil Jóźwiak ripped the ball away from Miami, passed to Karol Świderski, and Świderski found Reyna in the middle of the box for his first goal this season. Then, in the eighth minute, a play that started with an excellent aerial cross from Reyna ended with him successfully trapping a lose ball and launching an on-target shot into upper right corner of the goal, forcing a heroic save from Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender.
Then, in the closing minutes of the first half, a great cross from midfielder Quinn McNeill was quickly trapped by Reyna, and he took an even better shot than his previous one, an upper ninety in the right corner that easily made it past Callendar into the goal. It was Reyna’s second goal and McNeill’s first assist on the season.
Before coming out in the 81st minute of play, Reyna’s passing, ball control, shots, and corners were all highlights. “Yordy is technically a great player, and I’m not surprised to see him performing like that,” said Lattanzio at a post-match press conference. “Unfortunately we didn’t capitalize on his two goals.”
Vice City Vengeance
Though the score didn’t reflect it, Charlotte’s problems started 25 minutes into the first half as Inter Miami’s offense coalesced, and they began their attack. However, Charlotte was luckier, more aggressive, and more skilled on defense during the first half. Charlotte goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina saved a point-blank shot in the 25th minute; shortly thereafter, defender Harrison Afful protected the net and saved a goal. Defender Guzmán Corujo brought his physicality and big boot to the defensive effort, and captain Christian Fuchs won a couple key duels.
It all fell apart in the second half.
Miami’s attack was relentless, and it only took 15 minutes to pay off. Immediately after midfielder Ben Bender came in for McNeill and defender Joseph Mora came in for Afful, Miami’s Robert Taylor skillfully trapped a throw-in from Gregore on the right wing, then dribbled and beat no fewer than five Charlotte defenders to take an open shot that landed in the lower left corner of the goal. From the looks of it, Fuchs could have tried to stick out a leg or Bender could have challenged it; instead the entire defense collapsed.
Miami didn’t stop, making key offensive substitutions that brought striker Gonzalo Higuaín and midfielder Bryce Duke on the field. After losing a goal to an offside call that was sustained by video assisted review, Higuaín survived a second video challenge after scoring on another Gregore assist in the 72nd minute. The match was now tied.
Late in the game, in the 77th minute, midfielder Ben Bender attempted a pass to Swiderski that ended up caught in traffic and looked like a hand ball in the box; Charlotte desperately needed either the penalty or for Bender’s pass to be closer to the target. It was one of the few opportunities Charlotte would see as Miami continued to dominate the half.
Two minutes later, Corujo interrupted a Miami cross and suffered an injury going after the ball. Corujo left last week’s match with an injury and was questionable before he started, but nevertheless had been an effective defender all night, winning key duels and clearing dangerous balls. He was replaced by defender Christian Makoun as forward Andre Shinyashiki came on for Świderski and Jaylin Lindsey came on for Reyna.
Unfortunately for Charlotte, Miami’s substitutes were more effective, scoring two jokers to zero for Charlotte. The nail in the coffin came from striker Emerson Rodríguez, who came in for Taylor with less than four minutes to play in regulation and scored six minutes later. Like all of Miami’s goals (even the one ruled offside), the ball was shot from the right side and ended up in the back left corner of the net. Kahlina got his glove on at least one of the shots, but just couldn’t cover enough real estate to make up for Charlotte’s defensive collapse.
Speaking of substitutes and jokers, Shinyashiki has come off the bench for three joker goals this season, but the late substitution was reminiscent of the loss to Austin, in which Lattanzio didn’t make offensive changes until the 79th minute. Expect Charlotte’s soccer punditry to ask “Is Shinyashiki too talented to play from the bench?” a lot this week.
Be a Goldfish, Part II
Last week, in an article I wrote prior to the Nashville win but finished after the victory, my advice to Charlotte was to “be a goldfish” and forget everything that came before; in spite of some highlights, this will certainly be a match Charlotte FC will do well to forget.
Earlier this week, I predicted Charlotte would end the season with 44 points (+/- 3) and a playoff berth. The Crown Club could have used one or three points against Miami to make 44 points on the season more realistic; however, due to multiple draws losses this week by clubs below Charlotte on the table, the club still sits in 7th place. However, both Atlanta and Columbus play today and can push Charlotte out of playoff position.
On June 20, Charlotte FC hosts a much-anticipated friendly with Chelsea F.C., the third-place finishers in last year’s English Premier League campaign. Then, on June 23, Charlotte travels to Toronto in search of their second victory on the road - they need the points.
PS - Charlotte’s next home match this season is against Columbus on July 30. Charlotte is looking to improve on their draw against the Crew in June, and I’ve got two supporters section tickets for subscribers!
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