MLS Monday: Charlotte's Awful August
The Charlotte Football Club keeps making the same mistakes
For many of Charlotte FC’s most recent matches, the story has been the same: dominate possession and shooting, look like you’re in control of the game, create multiple opportunities (though not nearly enough shots on target) … and then lose due to mistakes the other team is able to capitalize on.
Aside from a quality win away against New York City FC, Charlotte’s past month has been one of disappointment and heartbreak. While the team is still mathematically in the playoff race, Charlotte would likely have to win the rest of the matches on the schedule to have any chance of making the postseason in their first year.
Last week, I reported for Queen City Nerve the front office is willing to make major changes during the offseason to make Charlotte a competitive team. To be clear, I’m not only talking about the expansion draft, but also any change to make the team more competitive, from trades to offers to dismissals. Given David Tepper’s recent history of decisions as both a NFL and a MLS owner, reorganizing the front office and the coaching staff is possible, if not likely.
No Joy in Mudville
It was a rainy day in Cincinnati when Charlotte took on FC Cincinnati on Saturday, September 3. On the wet pitch, Charlotte had possession for 64% of the match and just as many shots as their opponents, but they struggled to get shots on target, just like in their previous two matches. Cincinnati took advantage of their opportunities - especially a major defensive error between goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina and midfielder Nuno Santos in his first MLS appearance - while Charlotte continued to struggle to convert opportunities into good shots, and shots into goals. Cincinnati ultimately won 2-0 with one goal in each half.
In fact, Charlotte has averaged 3.0 shots on target over the past three matches, and only one of the 9 shots on target has resulted in a goal. Charlotte (10-17-2) desperately needed to pick up points in these matches, especially against FC Cincinnati since a Charlotte win would have resulted in the teams being tied with 35 points. Cincy, Orlando City SC, and Toronto FC have all leapfrogged Charlotte on the table with their wins. Now, Charlotte FC has 32 points and sits in 12th place in the Eastern Conference, a full 6 points out of 7th place, the final playoff position.
After the match, interim head coach Christian Lattanzio said, “I feel it’s very unjust for our boys” in that the team worked and played hard, and were arguably the better team, but still came home with nothing for the second match in a row. Lattanzio suggested that the team needed to play “more clinical” as the little mistakes have been adding up over the past couple of weeks.
Lattanzio started the Cincinnati match with a surprising lineup. Forward Karol Świderski, the team’s highest-paid player, was on the bench. Midfielder Brandt Bronico was wearing the captain’s armband as Christian Fuchs sat as well. Though Andre Shinyashiki inked a new contract the week before, neither he nor Świderski started in front as Daniel Ríos took the honors up front. Midfielder Ben Bender was positioned as an attacking midfielder, and recent addition Adilson Malanda, who had started unexpectedly the week before against Toronto, started again. Eventually, Świderski and Shinyashiki came in as substitutes, as did Charlotte’s newest players, Nuno Santos and defender Nathan Byrne.
At the post-match press conference, Lattanzio said he thought Ríos “deserved a chance” to start upfront due to the way he showed up in training, and because “Karol [Świderski] was quite tired at the end of the last game.” When pressed about the starting lineup, Lattanzio said “I always try to pick the [starting] eleven that I believe will give this football club the best chance to get a result.”
“My choice is always to try to give the boys the best chance to win the game. If I don’t get it right, obviously it will stop with me and I take all of the responsibility for that, without a doubt,” he added.
New York State of Mind
On Saturday, Charlotte will play NYCFC again, this time at Bank of America stadium. NYC has also been struggling down the stretch, so it’s the perfect opportunity for Charlotte to return to form, even if they’re playing for pride and not the playoffs.
After the defeat in Cincinnati, Lattanzio said, “This game should make everybody even more determined, even more angry, given that we come back home with nothing [after] a game that, in my opinion, we dominated.” Charlotte has lost not only their last three matches, but also their last three matches at home - and their last win came against NYC on the road. They’ll need that determination, anger, and intensity on Saturday.
Speaking of New York, I’ll be travelling to New Jersey for Charlotte FC final match of the season on October 9 against the New York Red Bulls at their stadium in Harrison, NJ. Let us know if you’ll be there in the comments.
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