Ashley Westwood Credits Charlotte FC’s ‘Doggedness’ for Recent Success 


Charlotte FC captain Ashley Westwood is reluctantly taking his first break from the action this season due to yellow card accumulation. Having played every minute until now, his forced absence provides a rare opportunity to reflect on the team's journey so far.

“Incredible” is how Westwood succinctly sums up the season to date.

Fans of Charlotte FC share his enthusiasm, as the team currently sits 4th in the Eastern Conference and 7th in the Supporter’s Shield standings—an all-time high for the young club. This success includes a remarkable stretch where they've lost just once in their last ten matches, a run that has captivated even the national pundits.

Westwood credits their achievements to various factors, particularly the adaptability they’ve demonstrated this year.

“The most impressive thing has been the way we've been able to change tactics and change things during games,” Westwood said. “Which just goes to show the lads have taken the work on board.

“They listen and are starting to know the roles of every individual which, for me, it's incredible.”

Head Coach Dean Smith and his staff have been instrumental in crafting this adaptability. Each match sees a specific game plan tailored to the opponent, though the team’s core principles remain consistent with a strong emphasis on defensive solidity.

This year, Charlotte FC has undergone a remarkable transformation, evolving from a team with defensive vulnerabilities to one of the stingiest defenses in Major League Soccer. They now lead the league in clean sheets and have conceded the second-fewest goals, an impressive turnaround that speaks volumes about Smith’s influence and the players’ buy-in.

The improvement is even more notable considering last season's struggles, where defensive lapses often led to disappointing results. The backline, bolstered by better familiarity with each other and a simplified defensive scheme, has been critical to this success.

While the backline deserves much of the credit, Westwood’s influence on the team’s defense is equally significant. Having played for Burnley, a club renowned for its staunch defensive mentality, he knows a thing or two about being solid defensively. His role as captain and midfield anchor has been pivotal, providing both leadership and tactical nous.

While going back to the basics has helped the team, behind their defensive prowess is a team with a never-give-an-inch attitude.

“It’s our ability to stay in the game and grind it out. We laugh now in there [that] we know we can outwork any team.

“It creates a real, real strong togetherness. The lads are embracing it. Anyone who comes into the group knows how hard you have to work and how fit you must be.

“If you're not that, you get left behind.”

The camaraderie and collective effort within the squad have fostered a sense of unity that is palpable both on and off the pitch. This determination is often described on social media as “having that dog in you.” Westwood highlights this “doggedness,” pointing to players like Brandt Bronico, who embodies this mentality and has become synonymous with the phrase among fans and teammates alike.

Westwood himself exemplifies this spirit through his relentless work rate. Despite being older than many of his peers, he ranks second in distance covered among all MLS players this season. His dedication serves as a benchmark for the team, setting the standards he expects from himself and his teammates.

A team’s identity often mirrors its leadership, and Westwood’s example reflects the team’s character. He emphasizes that leadership is a collective effort, extending beyond just the captain or coach. The ethos of leading by example permeates the squad, creating an environment where every player is encouraged to set high standards and contribute to the team’s success.

“When you've got a mate that will run for you next to you, it makes you do the same thing.”

This year, Charlotte FC boasts depth in nearly every position, continually driving each other to improve. The competition for starting spots is fierce, and players like Jaylin Lindsey, who train with the intensity and focus of a first-team regular, are pushing their teammates to elevate their performances. This internal competition fosters a culture of excellence and accountability, ensuring that every player is prepared to step up when called upon.

“It keeps everyone pushing together. It's the lads underneath the starting eleven that set the standards as well. So, you're creating a real powerful group.”

The growth of the team extends beyond just individual performances. The collective mentality, instilled from preseason, emphasizes a relentless pursuit of improvement and a refusal to become complacent. Westwood and his teammates are aware that maintaining their current form requires sustained focus and effort, particularly as they approach the second half of the season.

“We just can’t get complacent now, because when a team’s doing well, that's when a team can be at its downfall; when you think you've cracked it, you're winning, you're doing well.

“It's about keeping them standards and keep working hard.”

Looking ahead, Westwood envisions further development for Charlotte FC. While their defense has been a cornerstone of their success, he believes the next phase involves taking greater control of matches and asserting their dominance over opponents. This evolution from a defensively solid team to one that can dictate play will be the ultimate test of their growth.

“I think we know what we can do defensively. I think the next part of our game is going and controlling games and dominating teams.

“That will be the growth in this team, because that's the hardest thing to do.”

As the season progresses, Charlotte FC will strive to build on their impressive start, guided by Westwood’s leadership and the collective ambition of the squad. With a strong foundation in place and a clear vision for the future, they are poised to continue their ascent and establish themselves as one of the top teams in MLS.

Party of the Summer | CLT vs MIA |  Wed., July 3 at 7:30 p.m.

Party of the Summer | CLT vs MIA | Wed., July 3 at 7:30 p.m.

Start the 4th of July party early and celebrate at The Fortress as Charlotte FC hosts Inter Miami CF!

Party of the Summer Inclusions:
-Post-match fireworks
-Wine Wednesday (Select wine starting at $6.99)
-$10 concession credit with special ticket package
-Upper Bowl Open
-Light Up Rally Towel giveaway presented by Blue Cross NC (while supplies last)