It’s the morning after, and what last night doesn’t seem real. Charlotte FC beat Chelsea FC. That’s a sentence no one expected to hear... well, ever. As if that phrase was hard enough to believe, the manner in which the Crown won was something out of a fairytale.
Charlotte FC interim head coach said leading up into the game that he wanted his team to compete and to “give a good account of themselves” – and it’s safe to say that they did.
Going up against a team that won the Champions League just two seasons ago didn't faze Charlotte whatsoever. They set the precedent early on that Chelsea were going to have to earn the win if they wanted to leave with a result.
The Chelsea players had their own motivation to make a statement. Preseason preparations mean the opportunity to impress the coach for the season ahead. One of those players was America’s golden boy, Christian Pulisic, who opened up the scoring with a bit of luck to give Chelsea the lead.
Even though both squads heavily rotated players as the match went on, the level of intensity remained consistent. Almost every single player on both rosters made appearances, including Chelsea’s blockbuster signing, Raheem Sterling who made his debut for the club in the Queen City but it was the last substitute of the match that stole the show.
In the 89th minute, 16-year-old CLTFC Academy player, Brian Romero, came on and became the first-ever Academy player to make his debut for the first team. However, it quickly became much more than just an appearance.
Not even a minute into his debut, Romero picked up the ball at the top of the opposing team’s penalty box, and fearlessly drove towards goal. As space was running out for him he attempted a cross that met the hand of a Chelsea defender, earning his team a penalty in the last minute of the match.
“Brian is a very, very talented kid that we have been keeping an eye on for a while,” said CLTFC interim head coach Christian Lattanzio after the match. “He glides through players, and he has this great confidence to do it against anybody.”
Striker Daniel Ríos ended up equalizing with the penalty which ultimately led to Charlotte winning the match on penalty kicks. Regardless of the occasion, beating a Premier League side at home in front of 52,673 fans as an expansion team is something to be proud of and that fans will remember forever.
“I'm very happy for the boys. I'm very proud of them, because they were very hard. It was really hard. They couldn't play the football so fluidly because I think our guys were determined to work hard and to press for the old game,” Lattanzio on “So, I'm very proud of the way we played, even getting the win was like the cherry on the cake.”