By Sam Vanolinda
Photo courtesy of Cisco's Art
Charlotte FC’s season has been a story of great agony for fans, players, and coaches alike. Another lead going into the last 10 minutes of the game against a Philadelphia Union team that was unquestionably outplayed by Charlotte Wednesday night.
But, like so many times this season, the 2-0 comfortable lead was turned into 2-1, and after two chances for Derrick Jones and Enzo Copetti to finish the game were wasted, of course, the veteran with European top-flight experience Brecht Dejaegare makes one of the most undisciplined decisions of his long career and gives up a rash penalty in stoppage time.
2-2, two more points lost. Charlotte arguably playing its best football of the season, with one loss in its last 11 MLS games, but adding on to its absurd tally of points dropped this season, 23.
Attacking momentum chart (Sofascore.com)
Sofascore’s attacking momentum chart above shows the dominance of Charlotte FC within the game, with most of the pressure in the attacking end coming from The Crown until the tragic end.
Charlotte FC has been attacking well, the defense has solidified itself, and Copetti and Świderski were linking up very well at the Bank on Wednesday, but one thing the team has lacked this year is composure.
The blame could be dispersed in many ways. Is it bad luck? Tactical decisions by Lattanzio, or are the players to blame? No matter what, Charlotte must be leading by at least three with ten minutes to go for fans not to be holding their breath.
Lattanzio responded to nine draws out of the last 11 games interestingly at the post-game presser.
“The way we play… We are not Real Madrid or Bayern Munich… we also haven’t lost those nine games… it shows we are a tough team to beat.”
Although not being beaten is something to celebrate, for a team looking to make the playoffs, one point is just not enough at this stage of the season.
That being said, the playoffs are still achievable for Charlotte FC, and they must look toward their next opponent, FC Cincinnati, on Saturday at TQL stadium in Ohio.
The combination of Karol Świderski and Enzo Copetti worked better in their second game together. Swiderski was the man of the match, with a near-post header goal coming from a Brandt Bronico cross, which most assumed was the game-sealing goal. Świderski had 0.69 xG (expected goals) and 0.59 xA (expected assists) working hard in both scoring and creating for his teammates.
Świderski was the best player on the field Wednesday night, his ability most suits his new 10 position, slightly behind Copetti, able to create and score. The stats won't say that Copetti was incredible, but there were sequences of play when he and Świderski linked up very well together, especially the sequence that led to the Justin Meram goal, another player who had a great showing Wednesday night.
Against Cincinnati, Luciano Acosta is a player that should constantly have a man on him. The crafty attacking midfielder has 14 goals and eight assists this season. The Argentinian ticks all the boxes, he is in the 90th percentile of open-play goals for his position, 91st percentile in assists, 95th percentile in progressive passes, and 93rd in successful take-ons.
Luciano Acosta's season heatmap (Sofascore.com)
If Charlotte continues to play the way they have been, you can expect higher possession, but always the risk of a counter-attack by Cincinnati, who are first in MLS. Cincinnati has averaged 48.3% possession this year and has 10 clean sheets, so they will look to sit back and counter, something that could work well against Charlotte.
It's not easy to turn around after a crushing game against Philadelphia and play the Eastern Conference leaders on the road, but recently the quality of opponents does not seem to phase this Charlotte team. It has been more shooting themselves in the foot that has been the downfall of The Crown.