By Sam Vanolinda
Photo courtesy of CJ Hellner
Last week was another disheartening week for Charlotte FC.
Saturday night’s 0-3 loss versus FC Cincinnati was a punch in the gut after two more draws during the week, one in which the team was leading by two with 10 minutes to go.
“Lucho” Acosta made a Charlotte FC backline that had been in solid form look like training cones as he scored an MLS goal of the season to finish off Charlotte and potentially their playoff hopes.
The Crown sits in 13th place, four off a playoff position with five games remaining. I've been saying this repeatedly, but it is officially do-or-die time for Charlotte. Here are three takeaways from these last three games:
Lack of Composure
Besides the 0-3 loss to Cincinnati that seemed to be a result of tired and uninspired players due to previous results in the week, Charlotte should’ve had six points in their matchups against Philadelphia Union and D.C. United.
Composure and ability to put away a game has been a problem all season for Charlotte. Part of the problem may be Charlotte’s lack of goalscoring, because scoring three or even four goals in the match prevents the ability for late-game meltdowns, but part of the problem is also the way the team sets up and makes decisions late in games.
Sometimes a coach needs to simplify things. At times when you are leading it is best to batten down the hatches and put ten men behind the ball to make sure you capture those three points, and it seems as if Head Coach Christian Lattanzio is not comfortable with changing his play style to adapt to certain situations.
Versus D.C. last Saturday, Charlotte had 62% possession and 14 shots, but only two were on target. The team pressed and retained control well, but when it was time to finish they could not.
Ben Bender's miss
Justin Meram's missed header
Against Philadelphia, the misses were even more heartbreaking for Charlotte fans. Both Enzo Copetti and Derrick Jones had clear chances to finish the game.
Enzo Copetti's missed shot
Lattanzio commented on the lack of composure post-game against the Union.
“Even after the 2-1, we had three one-on-one with the keeper, we don’t make it count then after a bad decision in defending like we have done already in the past we give up a soft penalty… we let another two points slip through our hands,” Lattanzio said.
Because of this lack of composure and Brecht Dejaegere’s mental lapse when he gave up a penalty versus Philadelphia in stoppage time, Charlotte threw away six crucial points this week.
As we mentioned in the previous article comparing Charlotte FC and the new expansion team St. Louis SC, the downfall of Charlotte this year is that the team cannot find a goalscorer.
The Crown does not have a player with over 10 league goals. Even though Copetti has missed some time and Karol Świderski has been moved into various positions, the combination of lackluster service and poor finishing has caused Charlotte to be in the position they are in.
In Crown Legacy product Patrick Agyemang’s few appearances for the team this season, he has looked like the attacking threat that might suit Charlotte’s needs. He is strong, physical, fast, and has finishing ability.
He is a player who has been excelling within Crown Legacy FC, a team that has provided a bright spot for Charlotte FC fans looking into the future as the team sits first in the East and has a multitude of players that look to be future game changers on the Charlotte FC roster.
A target-man type of striker may be the solution to the goalscoring woes. Copetti and Świderski are players with great energy but are not the biggest threats inside the box because they are both on the shorter side.
Agyemang can take the crosses that have been going to no one from the wings recently and create chances out of them due to his stature.
Designated Player changes
Kamil Jóźwiak has been struggling to make the lineup as of late. Having only three DP spots, it is important to sign players who will make a significant impact on the team.
Looking towards next season, it would be wise for Charlotte to look elsewhere when it comes to their highest-paid players.
Going back to the St. Louis SC article again, they excel most because of their lack of dependence on their DPs. That being said they have done an incredible job of scouting to find João Klauss and Eduard Löwen, as well as the spine of their team starting from their goalkeeper Roman Bürki and center back Joakim Nilsson who are not designated players.
Next season, Charlotte should spend a lot of time and resources on solidifying the middle of the team. They have to find a central midfielder who can control the game, a player with experience but also playmaking talent, who can be the cornerstone of this franchise for years to come.
It's easier said than done to find a player like this, but if a team is a spider web, Charlotte needs that spider in the middle that can connect the team with passing and playmaking.