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Three takeaways from the Charlotte FC vs. LAFC match

By Sam Vanolinda

Scott Arfield (center) celebrates his game-winning goal (Photo courtesy of Cisco's Art)

Charlotte FC pulled off its biggest win of the season last night against reigning MLS champions LAFC, who sit second in the Western Conference.

Facing off against the likes of Carlos Vela, Denis Bouanga, and Mario González, the Crown pulled off its 20th MLS win in club history dramatically, winning 2-1 after a 75th-minute winner by Scott Arfield.

Here are a few takeaways from a compelling night in the Queen City:

Malanda’s discipline

After receiving a yellow card in the eighth minute, it seemed like Adilson Malanda might repeat his sending-off in the U.S. Open Cup loss against Birmingham Legion.

Malanda was the last man back throughout the game, having to make crucial defensive decisions when Privett would push up slightly and LAFC would counter, and despite having to play on thin ice from the eighth minute onwards, Malanda showed great discipline and stayed on for a majority of the game, before being subbed off in the 89th minute with a cramp.

Adilson Malanda (Photo courtesy of Cisco's Art)

“Adil is a very important player for us, he was brilliant in handling that. That kind of experience taught him how to play 11v11 with a yellow card,” Head Coach Christian Lattanzio said post-match, “How to not get sent off, and not dive into challenges.”

Malanda also completed 86.8 percent of his passes, helping Charlotte build from the back against the LAFC press. His discipline and solid play in the back were one of the keys to victory.

Derrick Jones, box-to-box hold-up man?

Derrick Jones played a unique role in last night's game. Starting in the center midfield position, he would push up very high, almost in the role a big physical striker like Patrick Agyemang would play.

He was tasked with playing centrally, but also pushing up extremely high to hold up play, and win those long balls that would come from defense.

Derrick Jones (Photo courtesy of Cisco's Art)

In his 75 minutes played, he ended with two tackles alongside two shots, 17 carries, and two progressive passes.

This performance shows what Lattanzio wants from his players. He wants them to push up and press but also put a shift in defensively.

“It takes a little bit of time for the boys to understand,” Lattanzio noted, “but the message I gave to them is that it doesn’t matter how you are with the ball if you are not good without the ball. If we don’t understand how to press the opposition we cannot be a complete team.”

High energy, offensive focus

After conceding the equalizer from Mario González in the 67th minute, many Charlotte fans may have thought they’d seen this story before.

In the past, after conceding to a dangerous team like LAFC, Charlotte may have held back and played for the point, but today they continued to press on and play an attacking style of football to the final whistle, and it paid off with three key points.

From start to finish, Charlotte took advantage of a potentially tired LAFC team, traveling coast to coast, with clean and quick passing and high-effort performances from players like Karol Świderski and Brecht Dejaegere.

“We saw (Dejaegere’s) Characteristics,” Lattanzio said, “He’s quite dynamic, technical, he can come inside, go past a player, can link the play…Brecht is a guy that can work hard in the way that I like football, total football, defending and attacking.”

Brecht Dejaegere (right) taking on Sergi Palencia (Photo courtesy of Cisco's Art)

The Crown showed a level of bravery and commitment to Lattanzio’s system when substitute Scott Arfield scored from a rebounded Świderski long shot in the 75th minute.

“The only moment when I was a little bit dubious is when we conceded the goal,” Lattanzio said. “Not so much because we conceded but because I didn't want us to go back into stopping believing in what we were doing. I wanted us to continue. I was prepared to lose the game as long as they kept playing.”

Lattanzio insisted in the press conference that he has a plan and a style of play that takes time for players to understand and believe in. Last night’s result shows that if the players buy in and show effort Charlotte can play an exciting, attacking, pressing style of football against the best in the league.

The team will hope to continue the momentum and playoff push when they face off against Orlando City back at home on Wednesday.