It was all Charlotte FC despite what the final 3-2 scoreline showed against the Birmingham Legion in the last preseason match before the 2023 MLS season opener against the New England Revolution exactly a week from today.
There was a significant jump in sharpness from the team as the preseason rust continues to wear off. The developing chemistry within team likely played a role in how the team was able to link up so well between each other particularly in the attack. Karol Świderski and Enzo Copetti showed an increase in understanding between each other as the two of them were heavily involved in most attacking sequences.
But perhaps the most significant benefit of this match was that it served as a team-wide confidence builder. It also saw all three Designated Players find the back of the net which is exactly what you want from them heading into the season. Head coach Christian Lattanzio will be pleased to see how his principles of play were executed both consistently and effectively but will be dissapointed in the few lapses on defense that resulted in conceding goals.
Lineup: Sisniega, Byrne, Jones, Malanda, Afful, Bronico, Westwood, Świderski, Józwiak, Gaines, Copetti
It didn't take long for the Crown to threaten Birmingham as their first good chance came just under five minutes. It was followed by more opportunities afterwards with Enzo Copetti just missing out on the opening goal from a McKinze Gaines cross. However, not long after the Polish duo of Karol Świderski and Kamil Jóźwiak combined to take the early lead in the 11th minute.
Świderski received it on far right side, crossed with his left foot as Jóźwiak snuck in front of the right back and side footed it in off the bounce. Birmingham didn't really threaten until a half chance on goal in the 20th minute that was easy for goalkeeper Pablo Sisniega to snuff out.
Charlotte continued to bombard Legion with threatening scoring opportunities winning corner after corner that saw midfielder Ashley Westwood get a lot of repetitions for his set piece delivery. In the 26th minute, Świderski did well to skip by his defender in box leading him to getting chopped and winning a penalty. Copetti handed the ball to Świderski who made no mistake and buried the penalty sending Birmingham's keeper the wrong way.
Westwood continued to prove his value on set pieces when in the 34th minute he whipped in an in-swinger from a 35-yard free kick which landed right on Copetti's head and into the back of the net. The last kick of the half saw Birmingham get an invigoration of life when some poor marking led to their first and only goal of the match.
Lineup: Sisniega, Lindsey*, Jones, Malanda, Afful, Bronico, Westwood, Świderski, Józwiak, Gaines, Copetti
Substitutions: Mora, Sobociński, Vargas, Bender, Santos, Shinyashiki
The second 45' was less dominant from Charlotte but still an authoritative performance as the match began to settle. Substitute Jaylin Lindsey got involved early in the 49th minute when a good cutback just evaded McKinze, but made it to Świderski who took one touch on his right foot and drags it just wide.
Copetti and Świderski continued to display their step forward in chemistry as they generated chance after chance from some savvy interplay between the two of them. The result of some of this play came way of a flurry of chances between minutes 65' and 69' where Charlotte came so close to increasing their lead multiple times.
Minutes after, a bad giveaway from CLTFC in the midfield put Birmingham's striker straight through on goal resulting in the lead being shortened to one. Lindsey continued to be involved in the attack as he delivered a chipped through ball to Ben Bender who free crashing into the box but puts the header just wide in the 76th minute.
In the 82nd minute, Andre Shinyashiki delivers a good ball from the byline to Copetti who heads just wide on the near post. The last chance of the match came to Bender who managed to get his header on target but was saved keeping the score at 3-2.
HOME OPENER TICKETS
vs. New England Revolution | Saturday, February 25 | Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
Giveaway: Poster - presented by Ally.