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"No Comment" on Coach Lattanzio's Future with Charlotte FC
Charlotte loses 2-0 in Montreal, playing what captain Ashley Westwood calls "High School Football"
Charlotte FC’s fans were livid. So was Ashley Westwood.
“The first half was unacceptable. We can’t start a game like that,” said Westwood. “It’s high school football. That’s what it was the first half.”
Earlier in the night, Charlotte had given up 2 goals in as many minutes against CF Montreal, one of the weaker teams in Major League Soccer. Charlotte’s response to the goals was uninspiring, and the match ended in a 2-0 win for the Quebecois that ended Charlotte’s five-match streak of draws, including a 0-0 draw against Montreal.
Designated player Karol Świderski, one of Charlotte’s most important and hardest-working pieces on the pitch, was unexpectedly benched after the first half.
In a post-match press conference, Westwood voiced his frustration with the team’s winless streak, lack of bright spots, and inconsistent performances. He also mentioned that the team has a lot of work to do over the one month break MLS clubs get for the “Leagues Cup” competition between soccer teams from Mexico and the United States.
When I mentioned that Charlotte’s next MLS game after the break will be against Inter Miami CF and the legendary Lionel Messi, Westwood brought the conversation back to the work his squad needs to do.
“We need to start winning games and focus on ourselves rather than other people.”
Montreal (9-12-2, 29 points) enters the Leagues Cup break in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, while Charlotte (6-9-8, 26 points) is effectively five points out of playoff position.
Is Coach Lattanzio’s Future in Doubt?
The fan response to the match was unusually acerbic and hostile to both Charlotte FC coach Christian Lattanzio and sporting director Zoran Krneta. In recent weeks, “Lattanzio Out!” became a rallying cry for fans who were frustrated with the club’s performance. Charlotte Ledger soccer reporter Carroll Walton’s must-read Q&A with Krneta this week may have contributed to an increasing number of Charlotte supporters linking the future of the coach and the sporting director.
Before Saturday’s match, Soccer Sheet had not yet reached out to the club for comment on Lattanzio’s future with the organization. After the Montreal match, we did.
On the one hand, “no comment” is the easiest response to a pointed question. On the other hand, such comments are often met with a show of support regardless of how close a member of the organization is to being let go.
However, if Charlotte FC plans to make a change in the management of the team in the near future, the timing makes sense. Last year, when inaugural coach Miguel Ángel Ramírez was unexpectedly sacked at the end of May, the club took action during a two-week hiatus from MLS team. Now, they have over a month before their next league match against Miami on August 20. A change in management would give the club a chance to retool and make a playoff run; despite Charlotte’s misfortune, they’re only 5 points out of playoff position.
Also working against Lattanzio is Charlotte’s record: even with five draws in the interim, they haven’t won a match since May 27. Whether blame is on the coach, the players, or both, the club has been criticized for “taking the foot off the gas” and conceding leads or giving up after poor first half performances. When I asked Coach Lattanzio about the winless streak after the match, he said the team has had chances to win games but has been unlucky - a common refrain in the press conferences.
“You can criticize me and then the team can decide what they want, but I want to keep the players away from that and I want them to keep working hard … honoring the Leagues Cup in the best possible way. We need to stay positive,” concluded Lattanzio.
Any fair assessment of Lattanzio’s performance has to reflect that Charlotte FC has had one of the most challenging years of any MLS team, in 2023 or any other year. The squad lost Anton Walkes to a fatal accident and both Andre Shinyashiki and Nuno Santos to assumed misconduct (MLS, the employer of all league players, is yet to respond to numerous requests for comment on the Shinyashiki/Santos situation).
Charlotte has also been plagued by injuries, forcing Lattanzio to use at least 20 different lineups on Charlotte’s defensive line. They’ve had to be active during transfer windows to replace talent and improve depth. Added to the off-the-pitch drama, the lack of consistency or cohesive play shouldn’t be a surprise; nor should it be a surprise if Charlotte FC president Joe LaBue and owner David Tepper have sympathy for the impossible position Lattanzio and Krneta have been put in.
From personal observation, Lattanzio clearly has respect for his players and their personal development in a way that Charlotte’s first coach lacked. I’ve seen him talk with players for an hour after all the fans leave and the last of us are wandering around the depths of Bank of America stadium. As a player developer, he’s been an important part of the club. He cares about the players and the team, even if his stated focus on player and team performance - as opposed to the final score - triggers invective from frustrated supporters.
Nevertheless, if Charlotte feels the need to make a switch, to change the culture of the team and light a fire under the squad, this break is the logical window to do it.
Only time will tell if the massacre in Montreal is midnight for the Lattanzio era.
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