CHARLOTTE – Charlotte FC’s performances this inaugural season have been described as “punching above their weight” but defender Anton Walkes couldn’t disagree more. The expectations that the coaching staff and the players placed on themselves was making playoffs so in their eyes they came up short.
“Frustration. Of course, I think we didn't go past our expectations, we expected to be in the playoffs, and we knew we were capable of it. It’s just about proving many people, critics from the start of this season. There were a lot of messages that will get in put out about we weren’t good enough and all of this, but it hurts. Not mainly about that, but more about us because we see it every day and to fall short, as close as we did it... it’s very painful.”
“I wouldn't want to play to just settle for the bare minimum. I don't believe anyone in a locker room is. I looked around today, and everybody's hurt, even out there. Getting frustrated, things aren't going our way and it's painful. And I know that everybody else feels the same way. There's not one guy in a locker room that just thinks they can just turn up and it's just a hobby, right? This is real life and we take it personal every day.”
Despite not achieving their goal of playoffs there are still many positives to take from the season. One of the biggest ones is the Charlotte FC fan base and the palpable stadium atmosphere they have created.
“Their presence is just such a momentum boost. If you think about COVID days, and if we were to play that game and was three nil down with no fans, you don't come back into that game. I think the drive when we were attacking, you could hear them, it's so much more encouragement and they've been amazing all year.
“It was great to walk around at the end and say thank you to all the fans, you know, they stayed out longer to make sure they could applaud us to and I think the bond is really improving. And obviously, there's more to come because if you can get some success, that's a great way for us to repay them.”
The Crown have a chance to finish their inaugural season unbeaten in their last five matches as they head up north to play the New York Red Bulls. Even though playoffs aren’t on the line anymore, the approach remains the same – to win.
“That's just how it is. Doesn't matter how it is. We know how they are. I think New York Red Bulls away is one of the toughest away games in the league and regardless of what do you want to throw at us, we have to be ready to stand on our own. And like I said, I look around the locker room and I strongly believe that everybody has each other's backs. I'm ready to do that.”