By Sam Vanolinda
Photo Courtesy of Cisco's Art
Charlotte FC has two games remaining and everything to play for. These are the type of games that make any sports fan filled with excitement and anxiety, with all the energy and hard work from the season being defined in ~180 minutes of football.
There have been some bleak times for this team during the season, but now they can reverse those negative feelings with results against a depleted Inter Miami team with nothing to play for.
Two wins out of two guarantee a playoff spot for Charlotte FC. The team is currently in 12th but has two games remaining. D.C United, who are one place above Charlotte in 11th, have already played all their games and will miss the playoffs.
Playoffstatus.com gives Charlotte FC a 68% chance to make the playoffs, a higher percentage than the seven teams surrounding them in the table, with a 48% chance of finishing 8th, a 20% chance of finishing 9th, and a 32% chance of not making the playoffs at all.
Charlotte should look to win these games to get rid of any doubt of a playoff spot, but if they win only once or win and draw, they could still sneak in depending on the teams above them.
N.Y. Red Bulls plays Nashville on Oct. 21, and CF Montréal plays Columbus on the same day, if both teams lose, three points would be enough for the Crown.
Here are some keys to the match:
Taking Advantage of Miami’s Situation
Charlotte last played Inter Miami in the Leagues Cup on Aug. 11; the game ended in a resounding 0-4 defeat. The conditions are a lot different this time, however, with Inter Miami already being eliminated from the playoffs, the international break, and injury concerns making a Messi appearance unlikely, especially for this first game in Miami on Wednesday.
We summarized the plethora of potential absences here, but a couple of key players Miami will most likely be missing are Messi, Josef Martinez, Robert Taylor, and Benjamin Cremaschi, to name a few.
Unfortunately for Charlotte, leading goalscorer Karol Świderski has only three days' turnaround from his latest international game for Poland on the 15th before this match on Wednesday. You would think he would still play in such an important game, but he will be fatigued.
That being said, Miami will be putting out a team unrecognizable compared to their last matchup and have nothing to play for.
Charlotte should be on the front foot the whole match, but you must watch out when you play a team that has no pressure on them whatsoever. While Charlotte will be frustrated if the goals don't start coming early, Miami will be relaxed; those who have played sports know it is much easier to play your best game when you are under zero pressure.
This game is similar to the matchup versus Necaxa in the Leagues Cup for Charlotte. The Talent differential should be similar with Miami’s second/third string players compared to Necaxa’s level of talent. A promising sign is that Charlotte won that game very comfortably, 4-1.
Photo Courtesy of CJ Hellner
Dealing with no Świderski
The Polish International has been in incredible form for the club and now country, scoring for Poland against Moldova on Sunday’s Euro Qualifying match.
It has shown in recent matches, during this two-game winning streak, how important Świderski is for this team to click. His ability to play with Enzo Copetti and create goals and assists has been crucial to reviving playoff hopes and getting Charlotte into this favorable position.
If Swiderski is absent or limited in playing time on Wednesday, players need to step into that creative role. Brecht Dejaegere will be important, as well as Copetti, continuing to show energy and intelligence in his attacking runs as the lone striker.
It is unknown how head coach Christian Lattanzio will handle the missing players on Wednesday. It seems as though Lindsey would slot in for Uronen at wing-back, with Byrne playing on the other side and the rest of the defense unchanged.
In the midfield, you would expect the same mix of Westwood and Bronico, with Dejaegere and possibly Meram, Jóźwiak, or Vargas on the wings with Ben Bender unavailable.
Obviously, replacing Świderski will be the hardest task for Charlotte FC, but the team has shown resilience, winning two straight after seeming almost hopeless. It is up to the players and the fans, especially back at Bank of America Stadium on the 21st, to give Charlotte FC the energy to get into one of those Wildcard slots.
(For a reminder about the 2023 playoff format, click here.)