By Sam Vanolinda
Jaylin Lindsey (Photo courtesy of CJ Heller)
As the international break has given Charlotte FC fans a chance to sit back and contemplate the season so far, many will wish that the team hadn’t squandered so many points. That being said, the famous Ted Lasso once said, “Be a goldfish.”
A short memory is needed for optimism at this point in the season, but Charlotte has the opportunity to change its fortune and make a playoff push that the city can be proud of as the season winds down.
Charlotte FC currently sits in 11th, with 31 points in 26 games played. They are three points away from a playoff spot and have two games in hand on ninth-place D.C United. The remaining schedule looks like this:
DC United (Home) September 16
Philadelphia Union (Home) September 20
FC Cincinnati (Away) September 23
New England Revolution (Away) September 30
Toronto FC (Home) October 4
Chicago Fire (Away) October 7
Inter Miami (Away) October 18
Inter Miami (Home) October 21
With the addition of play-in teams in positions eight and nine, this year will require fewer points to make the playoffs. Charlotte finished ninth last season with 42 points, which would secure them a play-in spot this year.
In the last 10 years, excluding the shortened season, the ninth-placed team in the Eastern Conference has averaged 38.1 points, so that's the minimum target the team should be looking at.
Playoffstatus.com says that Charlotte FC has a 14% chance to finish ninth, a 13% chance to finish eighth, and a 64% chance to not make the playoffs at all.
Let's assume that 42 is the magic number of points that Charlotte needs this year. That would require 11 points from the final eight games; Here’s how I can see the final eight games going for Charlotte to qualify:
D.C United (Home)
This game feels like a must-win. D.C United is one of the easier teams that Charlotte FC plays down the stretch, and are directly competing for the final wild-card spot. The Crown needs to find a way to be clinical, as well as Adilson Malanda and Andrew Privett focusing on controlling former Crystal Palace striker Christian Benteke and his physical gifts in the box. I'm going to say 3-1 Charlotte, eight more points needed.
Philadelphia Union (Home)
The Union sit fourth in the Eastern Conference and made the finals last year. Despite being at home, I can see Charlotte being overconfident and slightly tired after their win versus D.C. United. Let's be pessimistic and say they lose 0-1, still eight more points are needed.
FC Cincinnati (Away)
FC Cincinnati only have four losses all season. Luciano Acosta has stepped up as a lethal goalscorer for the team and they boast a strong defensive line. Charlotte likes to play up to competition, but I can’t see a win away from home, a 1-1 draw, and seven more points to go from the remaining five.
New England Revolution (Away)
A tough road trip ends with a trip to Gilette. The Revolution has been going through some internal problems, with Head Coach Bruce Arena resigning due to an investigation into offensive remarks, and players refusing to train because of this. That being said, assuming that players are settled and returned by September 30th, I still see the Revolution away from home being a tough game to win with the likes of Carles Gil pulling the strings. I say a 1-2 loss, still seven more points to acquire.
Toronto FC (Home)
This is where Charlotte FC should acquire some valuable points. Despite making some big-name signings, Toronto has had a disaster of a season and sits in last. Charlotte needs three points from this game and I think they will. 3-0 Charlotte, four more points to secure 42.
Chicago Fire (Away)
Chicago Fire is a team that is right in the mix with Charlotte FC, currently one point above, in 10th. This will be an intense game as both fight for a playoff place. Swiss magician Xherdan Shaqiri provides that Champions League experience for the Fire, and he scores a goal right at the last whistle to draw 2-2 with Charlotte, three points needed from two games versus Inter Miami.
Inter Miami (Away)
As explained in “Why Lionel Messi won't play against Charlotte FC in October” Messi may be busy with International duty during these final two games. That does not mean that Charlotte will have an easy time against a much improved Inter-Miami team. I think Charlotte is overwhelmed by the likes of Jordi Alba away from home, and they lose 0-3 here, three points needed from the final game.
Inter Miami (Home)
Inter Miami travel to the Queen City with an atmosphere we have never seen before. One game left, the upper bowl open, supporters section going crazy. I think Charlotte secure ninth place dramatically, with a late goal and a 1-0 win.